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Van driver who killed cyclist was distracted by Instagram and Facebook, court hears

Simon Draper says it was his 13-month-old son who was using the phone when he hit and killed off-duty police sergeant Lynwen Thomas on the A40 last February

A van driver was distracted by Facebook and Instagram when he hit and killed a cyclist, a court has heard.

Simon Draper denies causing death by dangerous driving, but accepts causing the death of off-duty police sergeant Lynwen Thomas by careless driving after he crashed into her in a collision on the A40 in Carmarthenshire last February, Wales Online reports.

Appearing at Swansea Crown Court, the 37-year-old denies he was using his phone and says he had given it to his 13-month-old son in the back of the Ford Transit to "soothe" the toddler.

Mr Draper says he looked back "for a split second" and did not see the cyclist, who a witness reported had an "extremely bright" and "very, very obvious" rear light, smashing into the rider and causing fatal injuries.


Opening the case, barrister Carina Hughes said the driver had been "distracted" by his phone at the time of the collision and that an examination of the device showed WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook had been used in the minutes before the crash.

The court heard that at 6.42pm, Instagram was closed and Facebook opened for the final time, one minute before the collision with Ms Thomas, and that throughout use the phone was held vertically, never in landscape orientation.

Ms Hughes argued the standard of driving was beyond careless and met the criteria for dangerous driving. She added that Mr Draper was not in "adequate control of his vehicle", something for which "Lynwen Thomas paid the ultimate price".

Following arrest Mr Draper answered 'no comment' to all police questions but provided a statement saying he had not been in possession of the phone when he hit the cyclist and it was with his son.

Expert evidence was heard in court from paediatrician Mohammed Rahmen who said a child of 13 months would be unable to double tap the home button on a phone and their movements would be "random" as they do not have the mental capacity or dexterity to use a device in such a way.

The paediatrician also raised doubts about whether a toddler of that age could hold a phone in one hand while using the device with the other.

A passenger travelling in the car behind Mr Draper's van at the time of the collision told the court she saw the van move across the inside lane towards the right-hand lane of the dual carriageway in a "distracted" manner.

Dash cam footage from Ashley Croaker's vehicle was also played to the court. Miss Croaker reported "several times" when the vehicle crossed the solid white line on the left-hand side of the road.

After a "good five minutes" the witness said they heard a bang and saw a white light from the rear of the van. Miss Croaker's description of the van crossing the solid white line was challenged by defence barrister Tim Evans who also questioned the paediatrician's assessment, saying a child would be able to double tap a phone button and prompting an admission that there are currently no published papers about young children's ability to operate mobile phones.

Please note comments on this story are closed, the trial continues.

Dan is the news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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