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Jail suspended for death crash pensioner

crowncourt-1024x682A WELL known Aberystwyth man died in a head-on car crash when “age caught up” with an elderly driver and she fell asleep at the wheel.

Margaret Christopher, aged 81, had been looking for a layby to take a break when she failed to even attempt to take a left hand bend and drove straight into Dai England’s Peugeot 208.

Mr England died two days later from injuries to his heart and his central nervous system.

His daughter Rhian, a passenger in the front seat, suffered fractures to her arm, elbow and knee and spent three months in a wheelchair.

For the 48 hours after the crash doctors thought Christopher would die but she survived.

Today, she admitted causing death by careless driving. She was jailed for 14 months, suspended for two years, and banned from driving for two years.

Francis Jones, prosecuting, told Swansea Crown Court that on March 19 last year Christopher, then aged 80, was part way through a six and a half hour drive from her home in Southport, Lancashire, to her daughter’s home in Broad Haven. She had promised to look after her daughter’s dog while she went on holiday.

Christopher had taken two breaks, the last one in Machynleth. But as she approached Aberystwyth on the A4159 at Lovesgrove she felt she needed another one.

Mr Jones said Christopher entered a left hand bend but drove straight on and her Vauxhall Astra hit the Peugeot.

Mr England and his daughter had to be cut out of the wreckage. At the scene he was able to talk to paramedics but the 67 year old died in the University of Wales hospital in Cardiff two days later.

Mr Jones said other drivers thought Christopher had not even tried to take the bend and there was no sign that she had braked.

Rhian England remembered her father braking hard and turning to his left, but he could not avoid the collision.

Mr Jones said both cars were in good condition, as was the road surface, and the weather had been fine and visibility was good. Speed was not a factor, he added.

Christopher, he said, had no recollection of the collision and could not offer an explanation.

In a victim impact statement Mr England’s widow, Mair, said she thought about her soul-mate all of the time. They had been married for 44 years and had three children and two grandchildren.

Andrew Nuttall, the barrister representing Christopher, said she also thought about Mr England and his family every day.

“She understands very well that words give little comfort to the family. But all she can say is that she is very, very sorry.

“She really has no idea what happened. She has decided never to drive again,” he added.

Judge Huw Davies told Christopher, “Age caught up with you in a tragic way and without warning.

“You think you must have fallen asleep. There is no other explanation for what happened.”

He said Christopher had “taken a chance” by undertaking such a long journey at her age.

“That day, that drive was asking too much or your stamina. But you took the risk of carrying on,” he added.

Judge Davies said Christopher had been driving since 1960 and had an impeccable record.

But he had to pass a prison sentence that was aimed at the whole community and reflected the consequences of driving without due care.

Christopher, of Hoole Lane, Banks, Southport, was also ordered to pass an extended driving test should she ever want her licence back.

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Dayne Stone

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