Background to why this Tour of Switzerland came about. Apologies if some feel it is not relevant to the actual touring in Switzerland but it adds a full pannier of context imho. Some may even remember the death of cyclist Tony Spinks first time around. It was a terrible case. Shocking to now read that the HGV driver Stubbs is now out of prison and back on the roads driving cars and HGVs.
On the 18th July 2007 my brother, and fellow OM contributor, Tony Spink was killed whilst cycling through Wakefield city centre. The subsequent police investigation revealed a shocking truth about his death and charges were brought against the man who killed him. That investigation culminated yesterday, 29th October 2009, at Leeds Crown Court with the sentencing of the killer to 2 years in prison. The man who killed my brother Tony Spink was 41 year old Andrew Wayne Stubbs of Bicester, Oxfordshire.He was charged with:
1. Causing death by dangerous driving
2. Perverting the course of justice
3. Failing to stop at the scene of a road traffic collision
4. Failing to report a road traffic collision
5. Driving over the legal time limit of 4 hours before taking a break of 45 minutes
The trial centred only on the first two counts, the rest only being mentioned at the end of the trial and no sentence or verdict being passed on them.Stubbs was found not guilty of causing death by dangerous driving but guilty of the lesser charge of careless driving. He was found guilty of perverting the course of justice. Finally, after 2 years and 3 months of being silenced, we can speak about our ordeal. This is what happened:
On the morning of 18th July 2007 my brother Tony had his panniers laden and packed and was about to cycle to Holyhead to catch a ferry to Ireland to meet a friend for a camping holiday. He was cycling through Wakefield towards our mother's house when he was approaching a traffic light. He was overtaken by a lorry approximately 170-100 metres from the traffic light junction. That lorry driver had just missed his turn at a roundabout 100 metres behind them both and was going the wrong way. From this moment on there is no clear evidence of how long it took our Tony to arrive in the position he was at the time of the collision, it is based only on estimation. From an estimate of the speed our Tony was travelling it was estimated how long it would have taken for him to reach the lights. Through tacograph evidence of the lorry’s speed, it was known how long it took the lorry to reach the lights. Those times put our Tony up to 30 seconds behind the lorry. It is therefore known that our Tony caught the lorry up at the lights and then proceeded past the lorry to take up a position at the front of the lights. Witnesses say the lorry was stationary at the lights...…..
As our Tony arrived at the front, the lorry, began a left turn and turned his cab into him. It struck his rear wheel. One witness at the other side of the junction, heard our Tony shout “woah, woah” in an attempt to get the driver to stop. He didn’t. Another witness at another part of the junction saw our Tony on his bike in front of the lorry banging with his fist on the panel below the windscreen to alert the driver to stop. The driver continued. The same witness then saw our Tony try to jump at the windscreen wipers in an attempt to hold on but he couldn't and the witness saw him dragged under the wheels. The driver continued his left turn and, with the bicycle and our Tony still underneath his lorry, dragged him for 150 metres further before his body was ejected at a roundabout.
The driver continued with the bicycle still jammed under the lorry for a further 6 miles. He then pulled over into a lay-by, pulled the bicycle out from under the cab and threw it, together with 2 surviving panniers, camping equipment, passport and other personal effects over a barrier.
Back at the scene of our Tony's death other witnesses saw two of the panniers being ejected from the lorry. One driver heard the loud sound of a lorry going over a pothole and looked up to see the lorry driver effecting his left turn with panniers coming out of the lorry. She knew something was seriously wrong. Other drivers sounded their horns to alert the lorry driver to the events. Witnesses stated the lorry was hesitant moving forward through the turn, stopping, starting, the engine revving loudly as if it was struggling to move forward. A pedestrian heard the loud scraping noise of metal on tarmac and turned to see our Tony and the bicycle underneath the lorry. It drove past her. Cars followed the lorry, one tried to catch him up sounding his horn, but failed. Stubbs left a trail of debris behind him – bags, equipment, blood, even our Tony’s milk powder, which he kept in a plastic tub for his camping trip spilled out and made a continuous white line in the road for 150 meters behind the lorry.
The shocking sequence of events was absolutely devastating and psychologically traumatic for our family, and our Tony’s friends, and will be for the rest of our lives. Words cannot describe the mental torture we have suffered knowing these facts. Words cannot describe how our Tony must have felt when he was in that situation. It is unbearable but I have borne it because I want the truth and I want justice for my brother. All we cling to is the fact that he will have been so pumped with adrenaline in a fight or flight response that he would not have had time to dwell and it would have nullified any pain. He stood face to face with a man and a 40 ton lorry and fought it to save his life. It is simply devastating...…
Stubbs finished his deliveries that day and was later arrested by police in Oxfordshire. He maintained throughout all police interviews, and the trials, that he knew nothing of an incident involving a pedal cyclist at all. When asked to account for how he could not know about killing a cyclist he said he heard nothing, he felt nothing and he saw nothing. When asked why he didn’t see him in his mirrors he said he checked them every few seconds but the cyclist just wasn’t there, despite the road being straight as a die and despite acknowledging he had just overtaken the cyclist. When asked why he didn’t feel a jolt as he ran over our Tony’s 90kg body he just said he didn’t feel anything. When asked why he failed to hear any horns, shouts, bangs or scraping noises, he said his radio was on and he just didn’t hear anything. When asked if he could see any trail of destruction behind him he said he just couldn’t, although he was looking in his mirrors. He described his cab as a noisy environment which was difficult to hear anything. Police experts described it as a refined engine and a cab with the same level of sound and vibration transmission as a small car – they could clearly feel cat’s eyes, never mind a 90kg object. He denied ever knowing about a bicycle and failed to tell police he stopped at the lay-by when asked on 5 separate occasions. He denied ever touching a bicycle and denied disposing of it. He could not answer how the bicycle came to be found at the same lay-by into which he pulled.
Whilst on the witness stand Stubbs branded my brother, Tony Spink, the person he had killed, as “stupid and suicidal”. He actually said that in court, in his own defence. He blamed our Tony entirely for his own death. As he did when he ran my brother over, as he did when he dumped his bicycle, and as he has done for 2 whole years, Stubbs showed complete contempt for a human life. He has not apologised, he has shown no remorse or regret. He even had a defence barrister who defended his lack of remorse by saying “how can he show remorse when he has done nothing wrong.” The same defence barrister, at sentencing, tried to plea to the judge that Stubbs’ dumping of the bicycle was a “panic reaction”. Up until that point, Stubbs had allegedly done nothing wrong. We sat wondering if this was a final admission of guilt but even this half admission did not incur an apology from Stubbs. The defence barrister was not asked directly if this was a final admission of guilt and the judge dismissed it anyway...…
The fact that the jury could only find guilt on careless driving is hard to comprehend, but they were bound by legal directions and law. We believe there was enough evidence to convict Stubbs of causing death by dangerous driving. The problem with the law is defining what standard you use to judge a person’s driving as dangerous. And of course the burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove guilt so that the jury is sure. Any doubt, they can’t convict. We believe that in our Tony’s case it lies in this: We believe that if Stubbs had forgotten that he had just overtaken a cyclist, if he had failed to check his mirrors to check on the progress of that cyclist, if he was momentarily lost and was trying to work out whether to turn left or go straight on, if he was reading a map or just not concentrating, then driving such a large vehicle in the presence of cyclists then that constitutes dangerous driving… even after all that, the moment he struck our Tony’s bicycle, the moment he heard the shouts, and the moments he then heard and felt banging beneath his windscreen, he should have been alerted to our Tony’s presence and stopped. At that moment his driving became dangerous because he continued to drive. He could have stopped and he could have saved our Tony’s life. He didn’t. We believe that Stubbs knew our Tony was there in front of his lorry. We believe he chose to drive on. And we believe his aggressive, contemptuous attitude which he showed in court was present that day and also led to his decision not to stop. We believe he should have been charged with manslaughter. He got away with careless driving.
He didn’t get away with count 2 however, and he was found guilty of perverting the course of justice. We are grateful for that but 2 years in prison is not enough.
The most difficult part of the whole trial was listening to Stubbs try to pin the blame entirely on our Tony. Because of his complete denials it was Stubbs’ only defence to blame our Tony. He convinced himself, and I believe he convinced his own family, that he was absolved of all responsibility; that he was the victim. He showed anger and he displayed vitriol in court towards our Tony. It was unbelievable to hear. Our Tony was blamed as being suicidal, stupid, a risk taker, reckless and someone who disobeyed the rule of the road. It was claimed he could have made an outrageous manoeuvre, that he mounted the kerb, overtook the lorry on the pavement, then crossed a pedestrian crossing in the left filter lane to put himself in front of the lorry. But the doubt that all these accusations placed in the jury’s minds worked.
Our Tony was an experienced cyclist who had cycled thousands of miles throughout Britain and even in America. There is no way he would have undertaken a moving lorry that was indicating left at traffic lights in front of him, nor a stationary lorry indicating left either. He was faced with a stationary line of traffic at a set of traffic lights and a lorry that gave no indication it was about to turn left. Knowing my brother as I do our Tony deemed the traffic in front of him safe enough to cycle to the front of the traffic lights and secure a safe position for setting off. Fortunately for Stubbs there was no witness who saw what our Tony did, just one witness who saw him in front of the lorry only, as he banged on the cab. And, again fortunately for Stubbs, there was no evidence that he was indicating or not indicating left, i.e., there were no witnesses who could conclusively or reliably state that the vehicle was not indicating left. But we know it wasn’t.
The judge’s sentence was far too lenient but her words in condemning Stubbs were an immense relief after the torture of listening to such a rigorous and prolonged defence campaign when every protection and opportunity to speak was afforded to Stubbs. Maintaining silence during those long, painful court sessions was torture – and we had to do it twice over. The outcome of the trial leaves us with mixed feelings and deep wounds. I only feel now that I want to start having my say. A gross miscarriage of justice has been done and our Tony would be devastated at that. He would be furious that a court again fails to protect a cyclist adequately. He would be furious that this driver who had never met him or knew him could have such little respect for him as a vulnerable road user that he could kill him without any feelings of guilt or sorrow. It defies belief.
There is so much more I could say. There was so much evidence in court. The case was so controversial. It was subject to a re-trial and both judges, the police and the CPS had never heard a case like it before. There is so much to say about the safety of cyclists, the attitudes of drivers and the law towards cyclists and road traffic death in general.
The original thread was removed for reasons explained in another thread and it started as an expression of my grief and a tribute to our Tony. I always intended to debate the issues and tell the story after the original trial in 2008. It took a little longer. My thanks go to all those who supported me and my family through their kind words in my original thread that I started in 2007.