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Van driver who killed cyclist on A40 told he may face jail after being found guilty

Motorist admits he was blinded by the sun ahead of fatal incident that claimed life of senior RAF officer

The driver of a van that struck and killed a senior RAF officer as he rode home on the A40 in March last year has been told he may face a jail sentence after being convicted by a jury at Harrow Crown Court of causing death by careless driving.

Group Captain Tom Barrett, aged 44 and described as a keen cyclist, was killed less than a mile from RAF Northolt in West London, where he was station commander.

The father of two, who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan and had previously been aide-de-camp to the Queen, was taken to St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, where he died of his injuries.

The driver of the Ford Transit van involved in the collision, 51-year-old Paul Luker of Farnham Royal, Buckinghamshire, told the court that he had been blinded by the sun prior to the fatal incident.

Prosecutor Adina Ezekiel maintained that Luker should have adjusted his driving to the conditions, while the motorist himself, who was driving below the speed limit, revealed that he had not seen Group Captain Barrett before his vehicle struck him, reports the Uxbridge Gazette.

"I was very short-sighted, I was struggling to see the brake lights of the car in front of me, so I decided I needed to slow down,” explained Luker, who had pleaded not guilty the charge.

"At that point I was in the middle lane and the sun got worse, so I put a cap on but it didnt help much.

"The sun was as low that day as I have ever known.

"The only way I could get the sun out of my eyes was to put the sun visor fully down, but I would have been blinded by that, so I put it on an angle.

"I could see people flashing me for going too slow so I decided to go into the inside lane and remember looking in my mirror for motorcycles.

"All of a sudden I felt a bump.

"I immediately slowed down and decided not to do an emergency brake because the car behind me was too close and stopping suddenly might have caused an accident, so I geared down.

"I thought I hit a deer. I never saw anything,” he continued.

"I saw the bicycle wheels along the road and then I realised I hit a cyclist.

"I remember shouting ‘oh no, oh no,’ I was in some sort of shock.

"Mr Barrett was lying face down and I saw blood coming out of his ear and mouth and I knew at that stage it was quite a problem.

"I just don't understand why I didn't see him," he added. 
"I would have done everything in my power to avoid any accident.

"I think about it all the time,” he went on. “I was a pretty happy go lucky sort of fellow until that day."

Judge John Anderson bailed Luker until March 26 pending pre-sentencing reports, and said: "It is common ground in this case that this was a momentary lapse of attention.

"Sentencing guidelines recommend a community order but you must understand that this offence carries a maximum of five years imprisonment and all options are open.

"You will be disqualified from driving but I have been persuaded in these exceptional circumstances for the time being to allow you to arrange your financial affairs so this does not devastate your family.

"I do this more out of mercy than anything else, but you understand that you will be disqualified for a lengthy period."
 

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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