Truck driver admits causing death of cyclist Dr Ling Felce on The Plain

A LORRY driver has admitted causing the crash in which a mother-of-two lost her life. Robert Whiting, 40, was behind the wheel of a DAF tipper lorry when he collided with cyclist Dr Ling Felce on The Plain roundabout in St Clements on March 1. The 35-year-old Oxford research scientist died at the scene.

Barton man Whiting had been due to stand trial next week, but appeared before Oxford Crown Court this morning to plead guilty to a single count of causing death by dangerous driving. Standing in the dock wearing a grey suit and open-necked shirt, Whiting spoke only to confirm his name and his guilty plea. Asking the judge to adjourn for medical reports, Whiting’s brief Adrian Amer said: “The defendant had certain drug issues and drug problems.

“He was improving in relation to those circumstances. He was seeing a particular group called Turning Point, which the court may or may not be familiar with. “He has had a significant history with them and he was improving.

“The Turning Point organisation will be [able to give] an outline of the circumstances – the personal circumstances – of the defendant, which also may very well include medical references from the defendant’s doctor and, your honour, may of course include certain character references. “All this, your honour, in my respectful submission is important to the sentence hearing. “The defendant is going to receive a substantial custodial sentence.”

Whiting, of Brome Place, Barton, had initially been charged with causing death by careless driving while unfit through drugs and without insurance or a valid driving licence. The charges were later changed at the crown court to causing death by dangerous driving. On Friday, Judge Ian Pringle QC remanded Whiting in custody to be sentenced on September 8.

He imposed an interim driving ban. As he walked from the dock to the cells below, the defendant raised a hand in a wave to the public gallery.  In a heart-breaking tribute released days after her death, husband James said: “Ling was the light of our family and we are devastated to lose her so young when she had so many dreams for herself and her children that she was beginning to realise.

“I am lost without her warm presence, but she will live on through the love that she has given to us and to so many others. “Her whole family loved and loves her desperately, and we will always keep her in our hearts.” Scores of people attended a memorial event at The Plain roundabout, calling for safety improvements to the road layout for cyclists.

The Oxford Mail can now report that Whiting might never have been behind the wheel of the truck had he answered a court summons. On the morning of the fatal crash, he was due before Oxford Magistrates’ Court to answer allegations that he failed to stop for police officers, driving a VW Golf without a licence or insurance in Barton Village Road and Gurl Close on August 2 last year. He was later found guilty of failing to stop for a constable, having admitted the no insurance and no licence offences.

He was fined GBP250 and given eight penalty points. Whiting was also due before a ‘paper court’ this week. A magistrate working behind closed doors was asked to reopen a case of driving a white Transit van without a licence or insurance in Rymers Lane, Oxford, on December 5 last year.

The matter had been proved in his absence in June, when he was fined GBP880 and given six points. In the wake of the fatal crash, Oxford City Council leader Cllr Susan Brown said: “My thoughts are with her friends and family and also those who witnessed this terrible incident. “While it is too soon to know if this incident is related to the junction design, the City Council will be writing to Oxfordshire County Council, asking them to urgently review the safety of The Plain roundabout.”

Dr Felce was the third cyclist in six months to lose her life in Oxford. Jennifer Wong, 32, died after being involved in a collision with an HGV in Headington in September and Ellen Moilanen, 44, was killed in a crash with a lorry near Oxford Parkway railway station. A working group comprised of councillors and representatives from Oxford transport organisations was set up in May to look at ‘locations of concern’.

– This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire’s court and crime reporter.   To get in touch with him email: Tom.Seaward@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @t_seaward