A delivery driver has finally admitted being responsible for his refrigerated van rolling across a Southam pub car park and onto the pavement, killing a passing pensioner.
Matheeb Iqbal had either not put the handbrake on or had failed to put it on properly while he was making a delivery at the Bowling Green Inn in Coventry Street, Southam.
Iqbal, aged 22, of Lime Grove, Lozells, Birmingham, originally pleaded not guilty at Warwick Crown Court to causing the death of mother-of-two Susan Collins by careless driving.
But just days before he was due to stand trial, his barrister Andrew Baker asked for the charge to be put again – and Iqbal changed his plea to guilty.
The charge follows an incident on 30 December 2014 after Iqbal parked the refrigerated Mercedes Sprinter van on the Bowling Green Inn car park as he made a delivery to the pub.
While he was away from the vehicle it rolled backwards across the car park, over a kerb and onto the pavement where it struck Mrs Collins, who lived in Southam, as she was walking past.
The 65-year-old mother-of-two, was severely injured, and died in hospital on January 8 last year.
At an earlier hearing prosecutor Simon Ward explained: “The issue is whether the handbrake was on or whether there was a mechanical defect.”
The court heard there was a DVD from CCTV cameras which show what happened on the pub car park.
“He leaves the vehicle and slams the heavy fridge door at the side. After a period of 10 to 20 seconds it begins to roll away slowly, and only gains speed to six miles an hour at the moment of the tragic accident.”
After Iqbal had changed his plea, Mr Baker said: “The plea is entered on the basis that he did not adequately pull the handbrake up, and it is therefore only partially engaged.”
Asking for the case to be adjourned, he said a report relating to the handbrake had been prepared for the defence, but had not yet been seen by the CPS for the prosecution to consider its conclusions.
Supporting the request for an adjournment, Mr Ward told the judge: “We will need time to consider that report.
“I don’t believe it will affect the level of seriousness into which this case falls, but it goes to sentencing. We take the view that it is momentary inattention, with no aggravating features.”
Judge Andrew Lockhart QC said that whether the report concludes the handbrake was not put on or was not put on enough, it was ‘unlikely to change matters dramatically.’
Mr Baker, who said Iqbal was of previous good character, also asked for a pre-sentence report to be prepared on him and for the issue of disqualification to be left to the sentencing judge.
But adjourning the case and granting him bail, the judge made Iqbal, who will face a minimum ban of 12 months, subject to an interim disqualification.
Judge Lockhart told Iqbal: “You pleaded guilty today to an offence of causing the death of Susan Collins by careless driving by reason of your action, or lack of action, on the 30th of December 2014.
“You know, because you will have been told, what a serious matter that is. All options, including custody, remain open.”
At the previous hearing, in a reference to the death of Mrs Collins’s husband Paul three years earlier, the judge on that occasion observed that it was the second such tragedy the family had suffered.
In December 2011 the experienced motorcyclist had left work on the crime desk at Stratford police station and was riding his home along the A422 at Ettington when a Range Rover turned across the road in front of him.
There was nothing Mr Collins, who was riding a 650cc Suzuki, could do to avoid a collision, and he suffered ‘a major traumatic injury’ which killed him almost instantly.
And in October the following year 75-year-old Range Rover driver Anthony Brooker, who lived in Ettington, was given a two-year community sentence and ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work after pleading guilty to causing his death by careless driving.