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Court hears driver involved failed eye test on day of incident and may have been speeding and ignored road markings

A coroner has recorded a verdict of accident or misadventure regarding the death of Gary Mason, the former British heavyweight boxer killed when he was struck by a van while riding his bike in January last year. No charges have ever been brought against the driver involved, and Mason’s family are now considering bringing a private action against him.

The former boxer, aged 48, died from multiple injuries received in the incident at the junction of Woodcote Road and Sandy Lane South in Wallington in the London Borough of Sutton, reports the Daily Mail.

The driver of the vehicle involved, 44-year-old Piero Zanelli of Purley, Surrey, failed a police eye test on the day of the incident, although he was subsequently assessed as fit to drive by an optician.

In line with standard procedures, he was arrested at the scene on suspicion of causing death by careless driving, but no charges followed.

Croydon Coroner’s Court heard that it was common for motorists to cut across hazard lines marked Woodcote Road as they turned right into Sandy Lane South, and Zanelli, who used the road regularly, admitted that he did so “eight times out of ten” but was unable to remember whether that had happened on the day in question.

Collision investigators were unable to establish the speed of his vehicle at the time of the incident with any certainty, putting it between 25mph and 48mph.

It was also unclear whether Mason was on his bike or pushing it when the incident happened at approximately 6am on the morning of 6 January, although the court was told he was wearing dark clothing and his bike did not have a front light and only a dim rear one.

Describing the incident, Zanelli said: “I just looked ahead, saw there wasn’t any traffic coming down and that was it, there was just a thump on the windscreen.

“I drove on but then I turned round and came back. I stopped and I was in a sort of shock, I couldn’t understand it and then I turned round and looked again. I was sort of scared.

“It was so all in one go,” he continued. “I didn’t see anybody, there wasn’t anything on my bonnet, I didn’t see anybody it was just a thump and the windscreen shattered. It was all in the moment, all in one go, it could have been anything.”

Coroner Roy Palmer recorded a verdict of death due to accident or misadventure.

Following the hearing, Mason’s sister Paulette Stewart said that the family planned to pursue its own legal action against Zanelli, adding: “After 13 months we have finally heard the evidence gathered by the police as part of their investigation and we have heard Mr Zanelli give evidence in person.

“It is clear to the family that Mr Zanelli was driving at excessive speed, cut the corner of the junction and failed an eye test on the morning of the fatal collision.

“Gary was a wonderful man and father well loved by all and was taken from us through the reckless driving of Mr Zanelli. We as a family will never get over Gary’s death which in our view was clearly avoidable.”

At the time of his death, Mason, who only lost one fight in 38 professional fights, a British and European title decider against Lennox Lewis, was planning to launch a therapeutic drumming charity.

Speaking after the inquest, his friend Clive Thompson said: “He was an incredible person, a very good guy, kind hearted. He cared for people and he would have cared how he [Zanelli] felt in there today, he would have felt for him deeply.

“Gary would forgive that guy for what he did when not many people could. When he died he was out cycling to get fit because he had just got a grant to start his charity.”

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.