Motorist admits causing death of grandfather

Stephen Whitehead died on September 19

Stephen Whitehead died on September 19 - Credit: Whitehead family

A WOMAN’S ‘momentary lapse of concentration’ cost a ‘happy-go-lucky’ grandfather his life by knocking him from his motorbike, a court heard this week.

Stephen Whitehead was thrown from his bike when Janet Childs’ car ‘suddenly’ pulled out from a traffic jam as he was overtaking stationary cars, North Somerset Courthouse was told on Tuesday.

Childs, aged 64, has admitted causing death by careless driving in relation to the incident on the A371 Locking Moor Road last August.

Following the hearing, Stephen’s widow Helen Whitehead, paid tribute to her husband of 37 years.

She said: “He lived life to the full and liked playing jokes on people.

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“He was just a happy-go-lucky person and a very kind man who would help anyone out. He was a wonderful husband, father and grandfather.”

Magistrates heard how the crash occurred as Childs attempted to turn around to avoid queuing traffic. As she tried to turn back towards Locking she hit Mr Whitehead, who was overtaking at about 20mph.

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Eyewitness accounts said the accident ended up with the 56-year-old under her Volkswagen Polo.

Paramedics treated Mr Whitehead at the scene and he was later airlifted to hospital.

Gareth Giddings, prosecuting, said: “She was in a very slow moving line of traffic. She went to perform a U-turn and she didn’t keep a proper look out behind her in her mirrors or pay good regard to what was around her.

“He suffered a severe neck injury and unfortunately he passed away in hospital some 24 days later.”

Carl May-Smith, defending, said: “Mrs Childs has held a driving licence for 36 years. She is a regular driver and, at one point in her career, drove for a living, including Transit vans.

“She has never been involved in any kind of accident. She has never had any points on her licence and not even had a parking ticket.”

He disputed eyewitness accounts that Childs ‘suddenly pulled out’ without indicating.

He said she checked her mirrors and indicated before attempting to turn around in a little gateway to the right of the traffic.

He added: “She wasn’t in any hurry to get to her destination but she knows the area and is aware of a different route which would have less traffic.

“She checked her rear view window and door mirror before making the manoeuvre… and doesn’t understand how she didn’t see Mr Whitehead.

“I would say this was a momentary lapse of concentration.”

Her eyesight was tested at the scene by police officers and found to be fine.

Mr May-Smith said Childs had spoken of her regret and ‘a day hasn’t gone by when she hasn’t regretted what’s happened’.

Mr Whitehead, who lived in Winscombe, was a forklift driver for May Gurney and had four children and seven grandchildren.

His eldest daughter, Becky, told the Mercury that his death had left a large hole in their family.

Childs, of Wolvershill Road in Banwell, was released on unconditional bail to await sentencing.

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