A cyclist on trial for causing the death of a pedestrian in east London has denied deliberately riding through a red light immediately before the fatal collision.
Last week, as the trial opened at Snaresbrook Crown Court, the prosecution claimed that the traffic light would have been “on red for over five seconds” before Ermir Loka, aged 23, struck 72-year-old Peter McCombie on the afternoon of Friday 3 July last year.
Mr McCombie, who had been travelling home from his job as an administrator at the Royal London Hospital, died in hospital eight days later from serious head injuries sustained in the crash on Bow Road close to Thames Magistrates’ Court.
Loka, from Walthamstow, fled the scene but handed himself into police on 28 July after a friend confronted him with still CCTV images of him riding his bike at the location that had been released as part of an appeal, reports The Sun.
He was charged with manslaughter and causing bodily harm by wanton or furious driving, pleading not guilty to both charges.
Giving evidence on Monday, he told defence barrister Hugh Mullan that he had been juggling two jobs in the week before the incident – one on a building site in south London, the other in a restaurant in north east London – and had been getting around three hours’ sleep a night.
“How tired were you that afternoon?,” Mr Mullan asked him.
“To be honest, I was quite tired, but it was the last day and we were going to be done and I had the weekend to rest,” Loka replied.
He was then asked: “Since you started riding a bike in London, have you ever cycled through a red light, to your knowledge?"
“No, the first and main point is that it is a dangerous thing to do, which has risks for yourself,” he responded.
“There is also a possibility that someone will be crossing the road and you might hit them, you can cause an accident and many other things.
“I did not deliberately go through the red lights,” he continued.
“I saw that the person was frozen in place and I tried to swerve to the right, but I just could not manage instinctively to copy what the cyclist in front of me did, I just didn't have time to do it.
“I tried to go for the brakes but I didn't manage to press them. I fell to the ground face down, for next two or three seconds I was lying on the ground, I couldn't understand what happened.
“Then I got up, I looked to my left, I could see the man lying down, I could see his eyes were open and he was wearing a mask.”
Loka, an Albanian national, admitted that he left the scene immediately because he was worried about his immigration status, and that he had not realised the extent of Mr McCombie’s injuries.
“I had a very short time to think about what to do, and seeing that the accident happened in the middle of the road, and the police would be there within 2 or 3 minutes and would stop me and find out I was here illegally,” he explained.
“Thinking it was not a serious accident with the police, hoping that the gentleman would get better, I decided to leave, I had only a few seconds to think, it was split second decision.
“I have done wrong, I have not [done the] right thing, I was a coward, but it happened, what happened, happened. I do not blame Mr McCombie."
Asked why he did not check on the condition of the pedestrian, he said: “I was in a state of shock, I didn't know how to react, how to touch him or talk to him, the only thing that came to my mind was to leave.”
The case continues.
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Simon joined road.cc 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.