A woman who ran down and killed a cyclist with her Range Rover has walked free after claims she may have fainted at the wheel.
Published: 1:54PM GMT 11 Jan 2010
The vehicle belonging to Tracy Johnson, 35, ran over mother-of-three Sharon Corless as she was out cycling with her husband.
The car also hit 43-year-old Mrs Corless’ husband Peter at up to 51mph before hitting another car before hitting a lamp-post on a roundabout, Chester Crown Court heard.
After the incident, Mrs Johnson got out of her £60,000 car in a “shocked and dazed” condition saying “what’s happened”,
It was alleged Mrs Johnson, from Warrington, Cheshire, had been on her mobile phone to her husband minutes before the collision.
She faced a maximum of 14 years in prison if convicted, but the charge of causing death by dangerous driving was dropped after medical experts said she had possibly fainted and was not conscious of her actions.
The court heard that Mrs Corless, who worked as a support worker in the maternity unit at Warrington Hospital, cycled up to a roundabout in the town just behind her husband.
Prosecuting, David Potter said: ’’For reasons that defy and reasonable explanation,the defendant’s vehicle began to accelerate towards the roundabout. The vehicle began to drift from the carriageway and then collided with the verge and drove along the vergeway with the near side wheels on the verge.
“It travelled along the vergeway for approximately 50 metres. Having collided with the verge the vehicle then collided with Mrs Corless who was dragged underneath the wheels of the range rover. She suffered fatal injuries and died later in hospital.
“Moments later there was a second collision with Peter Corless who was thrown clear of the vehicle but nevertheless sustained serious injuries.
“The vehicle then carried on to the round about where it collided with a further vehicle – a peugeot which was being driven by a young lady with her daughter.
“Fortunately they suffered no injuries. The vehicle then collided and came to a stop with a lamppost on the round about itself.
“Witnesses behind the vehicle said at no stage did they see brake lights come one – rather it appeared to accelerate.
“The defendant emerged from the vehicle in a shocked and dazed condition saying something along the lines of ’what’s happened.’ Moments later she was asking for her mobile telephone – which she later said was to call her partner.”
He added that “extensive enquiries” were taken as to whether the defendant was on the phone during the collision. While she made a call three minutes prior to the crash, there was no evidence she was on the phone at the time she collided.
The court heard Johnson had “no recollection” of the accident when interviewed by police, but remembered “coming round” in the vehicle after it.
Mr Corless, who works at steel manufacturers, suffered serious leg, pelvic, back and head injuries in the collision and has still not yet been able to return to work.
But the court heard a doctor acting on behalf of Johnson’s defence team said in his report that in his opinion “it is likely that Tracey Johnson suffered an abrupt episode of reflux-cyncope” which is more commonly known as fainting.
The doctor said fainting was an explanation for why Johnson didn’t apply the brakes, but accelerated- due to a possible stiffening of the legs.
The prosecutions expert conducted further tests on Johnson and although he could not replicate the circumstances in which she fainted, he could not rule it out.
Mr Potter said the decision not to proceed to trial was a “heart rendering and regrettable one – but ultimately the right decision.”
In dismissing the charges Judge Elgan Edwards said: “This court has seen many sad cases but I suggest that this is one of the saddest that has come before the court and this court.
“This was a tragedy for all concerned. It continues to be a tragedy for all concerned. Lives have been ruined and one life has been lost.’”
Mrs Corless left behind a 13-year-old son, Tom, two daughters, Olivia, aged 19, and Megan, aged 22.
Following the ruling, Mr Corless said he was “mystified and bewildered” at the decision by the Crown Prosecution Service to drop the case.
’’To say we are devastated by Sharon’s death is an understatement. She was the focal point of the family, a fabulous wife for me and wonderful mum to our three children Megan,” Mr Corless said.
“Our lives have been turned upside down but at least the prosecution would have meant a judge and jury hearing the evidence as to what happened and ultimately some justice for Sharon.
“Now that won’t happen and until I receive a proper explanation of the ’medical condition’ that caused Tracey Johnson to hit us, I remain bitterly disappointed that the prosecution has been dropped by the CPS.”