Driver facing prison after pensioner death
AWOMAN faces jail after being found guilty of causing the death of a pensioner by dangerous driving.
Pamela Jayasundera died after she was hit by a Ford Ka being driven by Susan Raybould as she crossed Hurdsfield Road just after 5pm on March 13 last year, a court heard.
Harry Lawson Court resident Ms Jayasundera - who was known to friends as Jean - was rushed to North Staffordshire Hospital after the collision.
She suffered broken ribs, a broken leg and fractured her skull in the crash and later died.
Raybould admitted a charge of causing death by careless driving at Chester Crown Court, but denied the more serious charge of causing death by dangerous driving.
A jury found Raybould guilty of causing Ms Jayasundera’s death by dangerous driving by a majority verdict of 10 to two as the pensioner’s family watched on from the public gallery.
Matthew Dunford, counsel for the prosecution, told the court that Raybould’s driving ‘fell far below what would have been expected of a careful and competent driver’.
He said that Raybould’s eyes were not on the road at the time of the incident, and that she had instead been looking into the left hand side of her car’s interior.
He also told the hearing that Raybould had received a text message on her phone at 5.01pm, just minutes before the collision, though he conceded there was no evidence that the 61-year-old, of Bollin Drive, Congleton, had looked at the text while driving.
During the hearing, a number of statements were read out from eyewitnesses, all describing seeing Ms Jayasundera, 71, crossing the road slowly using two walking sticks. Some also described hearing Ms Raybould say ‘I didn’t see her’ after the collision.
Mr Dunford said: “Ms Jayasundera was there to be seen. The defendant was not doing what she should have been doing: looking at the road ahead of her.
‘She was not looking at the road ahead’
“For whatever reason her attention was not focused on the road but on something on the passenger side of her car.”
A key witness of the prosecution’s case was Richard Harrison, a pedestrian who had been walking home along Hurdsfield Road when the accident occurred.
He told the court that he had seen Raybould looking to her left rather than keeping her eyes on the road.
He said: “I could see the driver. I noticed she was not looking in the direction of traffic, she was looking down. Her right hand was on the steering wheel but her left hand was extended out.
“She had her left hand extended out towards the passenger side or the seat, it looked like she was looking in the direction of that arm.” But cross examining Mr Harrison, Tina Londale, counsel for the defence, told the hearing that the phone was a ‘red herring’.
She told the court that Raybould had an old medical condition that meant she occasionally extended her arm out to alleviate pain in her shoulder.
When put to Mr Harrison that could have been what he saw her doing, he said: “It could have been, yes.” He also said it was possible that she was looking straight ahead.
Under questioning, occupational therapist Raybould told the hearing that she considered herself a ‘careful’ driver, and said that she had her eyes straight forward, though she admitted she had not seen Ms Jayasundera.
Raybould, who had been observing the speed limit as she drove home to Congleton from her daughter’s house on Hurdsfield Road, agreed with the evidence that there was nothing obstructing her view as she drove down Hurdsfield Road.
She told the court: “There were no visibility issues. I don’t know why I didn’t see her, I was looking straight ahead, at the road and driving in my normal way.
“It was a split second, I either saw and hit her, or hit her then saw her. I didn’t realise I had hit a person. I can’t remember the seconds leading up to the collision any different from a normal drive on that road. I can’t remember moving my arm but I may have done.
“My standard of driving was careful that day like I always drove. I was not reaching into my bag to get my phone. At 5.01pm when the message came through I would have been at my daughter’s house or putting her dog away.
“I don’t believe the standard of my driving fell far below that of a careful and competent driver.”
Raybould will sentenced next month.
●● Susan Raybould