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Wrong way M20 driver Leonard Pettifer - who killed Hawkinge man Michael Copleston - misses sentencing because he 'might suffer cardiac arrest'

By Sean Axtell

A pensioner who killed a former police motorcyclist after driving the wrong way along the M20 couldn't be sentenced today because he might suffer "stress induced cardiac arrest".

Leonard Pettifer, 86, was due to be sentenced today at Canterbury Crown Court for killing 60-year-old former policeman Michael Copleston from Hawkinge.

He had carried on along the motor way after realising he was heading in the wrong direction, the fatal crash happened when he performed a U-turn in the outside carriageway.

Mr Copleston was described as a devoted husband to his wife Pauline of 39 years

Mr Copleston was described as a devoted husband to his wife Pauline of 39 years

In a letter to the court Pettifer's GP said his existing heart condition is deteriorating, that he gets dizzy when  he walks, and should not attend court.

Judge Heather Norton told the court she feels the matter is "being put off" and is "being given the run around."

She ordered Scott Brady, defending, to set up a conversation between herself and the GP this week, to ascertain the best solution for sentencing.

That conversation will take place at 9.30am on Friday before another public court hearing at 2pm. 

Judge Norton said: "He gets dizzy when he walks around, I see that as no reason for him not to come to court and sit down. 

His funeral cortege was escorted by a group of Met Police motorbikes

His funeral cortege was escorted by a group of Met Police motorbikes

"The emotional stress will not go away and the heart condition will not go away. 

"What shall we do, wait for an eternity to see if there's suddenly a miraculous recovery? 

"He does have to be sentenced, it does not help him to avoid sentencing."

She told of her sympathy for both Mr Pettifer and Mr Copleston's family, some of whom had travelled from Florida and Scotland to attend court.

The family could be heard sobbing when Donna East, prosecuting, offered her condolences to the family. 

She said: "I'm very concerned on behalf of the family. 

"The son came from Florida, the daughter came from Scotland, frankly they need closure."

Judge Heather Norton

Judge Heather Norton

Pettifer, from Snargate Lane, Snargate, Romney Marsh was travelling home from visiting his sick 91-year-old wife in hospital and hadn't had anything to eat or drink for eight hours.

He entered the wrong slip road – but instead of exiting the motorway performed a U-turn on the carriageway. 

Cars were repeatedly flashing at him to drive in the hard shoulder before he smashed into Mr Copleston, 60, who died at the scene.

He pleaded guilty to causing the death of Mr Copelston.

Judge Norton added: "I'm not without sympathy for Mr Pettifer, but the law has to take its course."

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