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St Margarets-at-Cliffe van driver Philip Sinden knew fatal crash cyclist Daniel Squire, jury hears

The driver, accused of texting a girlfriend as his van struck and killed a teenage cyclist, has told a jury he knew the victim.

Philip Sinden – a 37-year-old relief milker – said he had worked as a DJ at the public house where tragic Daniel Squire’s’s mother was the landlady.

Sinden, of New Townsend Far, Station Road, St Margarets-at-Cliffe, has denied causing the 18-year-old cyclist’s death by driving dangerously in September 2013.

Daniel Squire died after being knocked off his bike at Ringwould in 2013
Daniel Squire died after being knocked off his bike at Ringwould in 2013

Members of Daniel’s family – sitting in the public gallery at Canterbury Crown Court – wept as Sinden relived the last minutes before the accident on the A258 Dover to Deal road at Ringwould.

He admitted swapping texts with his girlfriend and discussing their relationship between 6am and 7.30am, which he said were made while he was either working or visiting his parents’ farm.

“I was texting just using my left hand. When I pulled out onto the road I was trying to keep my attention on the road, so I typed without looking at the phone” - Philip Sinden

His barrister John O’Higgins asked: “Were you upset or agitated as a result of your discussions?”

Sinden replied: “No”.

After leaving the farm he drove along Station Road and pulled into a layby after receiving a text and sending a text and then waited expecting to receive a reply.

“I didn’t receive a reply so I carried on down to the junction with the A258. I did receive a message when I got to the junction.”

He told the jury he then began typing a reply which read: “Judges. Joubert. R. Sect” (sic)” but hadn’t realised that was what he had typed was gibberish.

“I was texting just using my left hand. When I pulled out onto the road I was trying to keep my attention on the road, so I typed without looking at the phone.”

Sinden claimed that as his phone had only 1% of its battery left he threw it on the passenger seat.

Daniel Squire
Daniel Squire

He said that an oncoming driver then “flashed” his lights to alert him to a pedestrian in the road and he swerved around the man.

“It was a quite violent swerve and I slowed down from 50 mph to 40 mph and my laptop and some lights fell into my lap.”

“I realised it was a cyclist on the pavement on my left hand side. He started to come off the pavement and I started to react. I started to brake and steer around the cyclist" - Philip Sinden

Sinden said he replaced the items and was near a dog grooming parlour when he saw something ahead of him.

“I realised it was a cyclist on the pavement on my left hand side. He started to come off the pavement and I started to react. I started to brake and steer around the cyclist.

“It was all very quick but it seemed to me he had moved out slightly from the lane he should have been on.”

He told the jury that Daniel had turned around and looked behind him “just before it (the van) struck the bike”.

“He just came out more than I expected. I spiked my brakes," he added.

Mr O’Higgins asked: “The prosecution case is that you were wilfully distracted from driving because you were using your mobile phone, is that true?”

Sinden: “No.”

The ghost bike shrine on the A258, where Daniel Squire died
The ghost bike shrine on the A258, where Daniel Squire died

He said he later stopped his vehicle and ran back to the scene and sat down on the verge “because I was not in a good state”.

Sinden had early told the jury he knew Daniel after doing DJ-ing and organising karaoke nights at the Admiral Keppel pub when the teenager’s mother worked.

He told the jury: “I just feel terrible that this has happened. I knew the family and it has been a dreadful time for everybody. I feel just terrible for Daniel’s family.”

The trial continues.

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