M11 Stansted double-death lorry driver ‘likely to have been asleep’ court hears
A lorry driver blamed for killing two siblings in a horror five-vehicle crash on the M11 was “likely to have been asleep” at the time, a court heard. Roger Sharratt, 52, of Bagots Oak in Stafford, is accused of two counts of causing death by dangerous driving. The charges relate to a crash near Stansted Airport in May 2014 when his lorry collided with a horsebox and three other cars.
Siblings Geoffrey Mills, 53, from Huissen in the Netherlands and Eleanor Mills, 45, from Hampshire, were both killed in the accident, while two other people were seriously injured.
At Sharratt’s trial at Chelmsford Crown Court today (April 20), sleep expert Dr Justin Pepperell said chronic sleep deprivation caused by sleep apnea likely meant he was not awake at the time of impact. “There was no evidence of the lorry braking prior to impact, meaning it’s highly likely Mr Sharratt was asleep at the time of the accident,” he said.
READ MORE: Chelmsford man spared jail after ‘inexcusable’ assault on dad-of-three “His recall of events leading up to the crash had many gaps, consistent with someone who suffers from sleep deprivation.
He didn’t appear to be awake at the point of impact.” Dr Pepperell went on to explain that the reason for Mr Sharratt’s sleep deprivation was almost certainly undiagnosed sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition that causes the throats of sufferers to close up while they sleep, meaning their brain has to wake them up from a deep sleep in order to reopen the throat muscles.
Only two to four per cent of males suffer from the condition, and at the time of the crash Mr Sharratt had not been diagnosed as a sufferer. However, later tests revealed that he did suffer from the condition, with Dr Pepperell saying that on average it was causing him to stop breathing “around 19 times an hour,” whenever he slept. “At the time of the crash Mr Sharratt was unaware there was a sleep apnea diagnosis, and unaware that he had it,” he said.
READ MORE: Chelmsford van driver arrested after police chase ends with stinger operation “It’s highly likely that he had the condition at the time of the accident, as it is closely correlated with weight and he was two stone heavier at the time.
“And sleep apnea causes people to suffer from sleep deprivation, and periods of sleepiness. They may not even know they’re sleepy, as habituation means that many people just grow used to feeling a certain way, and don’t know any different.” The condition, Dr Pepperell explained, can mean those diagnosed suffer from chronic sleep deprivation, yet are unaware of just how sleepy they are due to habituation.
As evidence to this, he stated how sufferers of sleep apnea are estimated to be six times more likely to be involved in a road traffic accident.
The trial continues.
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