Published: 00:00, 20 April 2016 |
Updated: 13:43, 20 April 2016
A driver's been found guilty of killing a woman in a crash - after it was claimed he may have been texting at the time.
Thomas Coleman, 22, smashed his Peugeot into the back of Sylvia Lloyds' stationary Fiat Seicento on the A259 near Brenzett.
The 62-year-old, from Romney Marsh, was flown to hospital with serious injuries, but could not be saved.
Coleman, 22, of Sycamore Close, Lydd, admitted causing her death by driving carelessly, but yesterday, was convicted of the more serious charge.
He was given bail until his sentencing next month – but was told by the judge to expect a jail sentence. He was also given an interim driving ban.
He had initially claimed to police he didn't realise Mrs Lloyds' car had stopped until it was too late.
But a jury heard that a police investigation had confirmed Coleman had been using his phone while driving earlier that day and was distracted and was likely to have been using his phone again to exchange text messages.
His car also had three badly worn tyres, one of which was so poor, it was leaking air.
"Coleman neglected the very basic responsibilities of being a driver and will have the rest of his life to reflect on this" - Sgt Christopher Wade
Coleman agreed the state of the vehicle did constitute dangerous driving in itself.
During the trial at Canterbury Crown Court, a witness who was travelling in the opposite direction described the crash on February 8 last year.
Linda Jarvis, who was talking to her mother on her hands-free car phone at the time, said the Fiat was "driving very slowly or stopped" when another car came up behind.
"I commented to my mother about that. As the accident unfolded I said: 'Oh god, that car’s not going to stop!'"she said.
Ms Jarvis said the Peugeot "didn’t appear to slow down at all" adding that she was almost level when the crash happened.
"I felt and heard the impact of the two cars and saw all the debris coming from the cars."
She then stopped her vehicle, assured her mother she was OK and immediately called the emergency services.
Prosecutor Allan Compton told the jury: "It is our case that the defendant's driving at the time of the collision was dangerous and it was that dangerous driving that caused the accident and the death of Mrs Lloyds.
"The prosecution case is that his driving was not just careless but dangerous."
He said Mrs Lloyds "for reasons to this day remain unclear" had pulled over to the side of the road 550 metres after the roundabout with the A2070.
Mr Compton added that Coleman had "without any apparent explanation" driven straight into Mrs Lloyds' vehicle resulting in her receiving severe neck and chest injuries from which she later died.
Coleman was interviewed and told officers: "I was just coming out of the Brenzett garage towards New Romney. I was doing 55 to 60mph.
"I came around that little bend, see the car in front of me, took my foot off the gas. I didn’t know she had stopped.
"There were no brake lights or hazard lights. I tried to miss her and caught the end right of her car with the front end of my car" - Thomas Coleman
"There were no brake lights or hazard lights. I tried to miss her and caught the end right of her car with the front end of my car."
Analysis of Coleman’s mobile phone revealed it had been used a number of times that morning.
Mr Compton said Coleman had been: "Making calls, sending and receiving texts and Whatsapp messages between the time he began his journey at 8.30am and the collision at 10.06am – including receiving a message at 10.04.48 – one and half minutes before the first 999 call."
He told the jury that there had been nothing mechanically wrong with Mrs Lloyds' car but police discovered the Peugeot had under-inflated and defective tyres – although they had not contributed to the accident.
Judge Heather Norton ordered the Crown Prosecution Service to provide expert evidence to find out to what extent the Fiat’s unexplained stopping may have contributed to the crash.
Speaking after the verdict, Sergeant Christopher Wade from the serious collision investigation unit said: "Witnesses who saw the collision said Coleman didn't brake until immediately before the impact and it is clear this collision was completely avoidable.
"Despite denials from Coleman that he was not the type of person who would use his phone while driving, it was evident from our examination of his phone activity that he was not focusing on his journey.
"The tragic consequence is that this fatal collision could have been avoided, he had a clear view of some 230 metres ahead and should have seen the other car. Coleman neglected the very basic responsibilities of being a driver and will have the rest of his life to reflect on this.
"I am pleased the jury have convicted Coleman of causing death by dangerous driving. I would like to thank those who came forward to provide witness accounts of the incident. My thoughts are with Mrs Lloyds’ family."
Coleman will be sentenced on May 20.
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