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Eilidh Cairns' killer questioned over second London lorry fatality

Private Eye reports same driver involved in death of 97-year-old pedestrian in June this year

It has been reported that the driver of a lorry that struck and killed a 97-year-old woman as she crossed London’s Marylebone Road in June is the same man who was behind the wheel of the truck involved in the death of Eilidh Cairns in Notting Hill two years ago. The news comes little more than a week after Eilidh’s family asked a High Court judge to order a new coroner’s inquest into her death.

The allegation has been made in the latest issue of the investigative and satirical magazine Private Eye, published on Thursday, which says that the driver questioned by police after the death of Nora Gutmann, who settled in London after fleeing Nazi Germany prior to the Second World War, is the driver involved in the Eilidh Cairns case.

Press reports at the time of that fatal incident in June this year stated that police had bailed the driver of the lorry, although the media did not identify him. Private Eye now says that Metropolitan Police sources have confirmed to it that the lorry driver involved in the Eilidh Cairns case was also the one questioned after Ms Gutmann's death.

A tribute page entitled 'Nora Gutmann. Badass' has been set up on the social networking site, Facebook, to commemorate her.

Last October, Joao Lopes was fined £200 and had three points put on his licence after pleading guilty to driving with uncorrected defective eyesight, the only charge brought in connection with Eilidh’s death, and one that the driver had initially denied.

The magistrates sitting at Kingston Magistrates Court did not exercise their discretion to impose a driving ban on the 55-year-old from Dagenham.

However, just three months after the fatal incident in Notting Hill in February 2009, Lopes had failed an eye test and his driving licence was revoked. He got it back in April 2010, and returned to driving HGVs.

This evening, the London Green Party reacted to Private Eye’s revelation by posting a statement on its website in which Greater London Assembly Member and Mayoral Candidate Jenny Jones said: "If the same driver whose actions resulted in the death of a cyclist has now been involved in the death of a pedestrian this year, severe faults must exist in the system's response to fatalities on the roads.

"Profound change remains required in the way we approach road safety and dangerous driving if we are to avoid yet more needless deaths."

Green Party activist and Islington pedestrian campaigner Caroline Russell added: "Dangerous driving must be taken more seriously by the justice system. If we are to halt the current spate of tragic road deaths, we must learn the lessons from each case."

Earlier this month, Eilidh’s family asked a High Court judge to quash the verdict of accidental death that had been returned at the January 2010 coroner’s inquest into her death and order a new inquest.

Among other issues, the family maintains that coroner Dr Shirley Radcliffe would not permit questions to be asked at the inquest on whether Lopes had looked around sufficiently before Eilidh was struck, reports the Northumberland Gazette.

Anna Morris, acting for the family, said: “There was a failure to consider the wider impact of Eilidh’s death and the huge problem facing cyclists in London.”

However, Jonathan Hough, representing the coroner, insisted that the incident was of a type that is “tragically common,” and that no element of it would lead the coroner to consider that it “illustrated a systemic problem or that it might call for some specific response.”

Eilidh’s sister Kate, who since her sibling’s death has campaigned on cyclist safety issues, said: “Eilidh who was a strong and experienced cyclist had commuted the same 20-mile round trip for three years. The coroner concluded that Eilidh was probably in front of the lorry and that its front offside wheel clipped her rear bicycle wheel.

“Neither the police investigators nor the coroner considered it material to the collision that the collision report showed a 0.8 by 1.4-metre blind area to the front off-side of the lorry, an area in which a bicycle was effectively invisible to the driver, and an area that the new EU law on lorry mirrors was supposed to cover.

“Nor did they consider it germane that the mirror positions were checked to be in the correct position – for a six-foot-tall police officer – when the driver was only five feet and two inches tall.

“We are challenging Shirley Radcliffe in her failure to adjourn the inquest so that we could instruct our own expert witness; the thoroughness of inquiry into determining the events that lead to Eilidh’s death; and the lack of consideration of any Section 43 recommendations the coroner could make to prevent further similar deaths.”

The judge's decision is due shortly.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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