Careless HGV driver walks free after killing World War II veteran

A Derby judge has called for greater public awareness of mirrors on HGVs after a former soldier mowed down and killed a 95-year-old World War II veteran. Recorder Justin Wigoder told Derby Crown Court how the so-called “Cyclops” mirrors help combat the blind spot and give lorry drivers a better view of who is crossing the road ahead of them. His plea came as he handed Frederick Harris a suspended sentence for causing the death of Robert Cotterell who died after being struck at low speed by the 67-year-old defendant.

And in a highly emotional victim impact statement, the pensioner’s daughter told of the devastating effect his tragic death has had on the family. He lost his life in the very street where he worked selling antiques for many years. Derbyshire crime stories

Recorder Wigoder said: “One thing that is apparent to me is that blind spot on front of an HGV is not something that is as well-known as it should be. There is absolutely no blame attached to Mr Cotterell in any shape or form but people really must give HGVs of this size a very wide berth. You (Harris) should have checked the Cyclops mirror and if you had done this accident may well have been avoided.”

Derby Crown Court heard how Mr Cotterell was crossing Church Street, in Ashbourne, on his daily walk to fetch provisions when he was run over by a large lorry being driven by the now retired defendant. A number of good Samaritans stopped to help but the victim was declared dead at the scene on July 29, 2019. Harris, of Hull, took the case to trial where he was found guilty by a jury of causing death by careless driving.

Prosecutor Duncan O’Donnell read out the victim impact statement made by Mr Cotterell’s only daughter, Rachel, who said she lives 2,000 miles away from Derbyshire. In it she said: “He was on his daily walk keeping active and on July 29, 2019, he never made it across the road where he had worked in Antiques. How sad that a 95-year-old World War II Royal Navy veteran died in the street where he worked for years.

He was a devoted father, grandfather and soon-to-be great-grandfather. “I know the driver did not go out that morning to kill a 95-year-old in such a tragic way. I also know he was traumatised and will live with this for the rest of his life.

But so will I.” Richard Dawson, for Harris, of Newton Street, said his client is no longer driving for a living. He said the defendant’s wife suffers arthritis and that he acts as a full-time carer for her and helps with his two daughters’ grandchildren, two of which have “complex and special needs”.

Mr Dawson said: “He has been a professional driver throughout the bulk of his life, first as a delivery driver, then doing his public service as an army driver and then back on Civvy Street driving buses and then HGVs. “He has, at every stage, expressed genuine regret and remorse for his failure to act on that fateful day. He is still racked with guilt.”

Recorder Wigoder said Harris “must have been familiar with the blind spots” on his lorry and failed to spot Mr Cotterell crossing the road ahead of him owing to a lack of concentration.

He handed the defendant a nine-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, and disqualified him from driving, also for 18 months.