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Thursday, 17 April 2014

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Driver guilty of killing pensioner in car park

A woman has been found guilty of killing a pensioner by reversing over him in a medical centre car park.

Thomas Christopher Thompson photo
Thomas Christopher Thompson

Jill Stamper, 75, has been banned from driving for two years and sentenced to a 16-week curfew for causing the death of retired farmer Thomas Christopher Thompson, who had been out on an errand at the time of the tragedy.

He suffered fatal injuries in the accident, in the car park of Birbeck medical centre, next to Penrith Hospital, on January 16 last year.

Stamper, of Blencarn, Penrith, denied causing his death by careless driving.

But on Friday she was  found guilty of causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving following a two-day trial at Carlisle Magistrates' Court.

Speaking after sentencing, the family of Mr Thompson, who was 78 and from Lazonby, said they were pleased with the response.

They added in a statement: "Our aim was to try and prevent another family going through what we have experienced.

"We need time to come to terms with the events. We want to take this opportunity to thank Cumbria Police and the Crown Prosecution Service for the investigation and prosecution.

“We also want to thank family and friends for all their support over this last year. “

Sergeant Claire Sampson, who led the investigation, added: "Our thoughts are with the family at this difficult time, who have had to listen to the final moments of their loved one in court.

“We hope that the completion of the court case will bring some closure.”

During the trial, a judge heard harrowing accounts of the day Mr Thompson died.

Prosecutor Neil Bisarya told how, after the tragedy, Stamper was unaware she had collided with the pensioner.

The court heard from Helen Stringer, who was crossing the car park with her baby in a portable car seat at about 11.20am that day.

She first noticed the defendant’s Suzuki car because it appeared to be “dithering” back and forth, she said.

As she got near to the car, intending to the cross the road behind it, Mrs Stringer saw Mr Thompson standing on the other side of the car and the two exchanged a look.

She said to him: “What’s she [the defendant] doing?”

At this point, said Mr Bisarya, Stamper waved to Mrs Stringer to cross behind her car.

The prosecutor said: “Mrs Stringer took a step and then decided not to. The gentlemen had started to walk behind the car and at the same time Mrs Stamper started moving backwards, very slowly.

“Mrs Stringer shouted to Mrs Stamper to stop, saying; ‘there’s someone there’, and then she shouted to the gentleman; ‘she’s not stopping’, but by this time Mr Thompson was in the centre of the road, at the rear of the car. He seemed to realise the car was not stopping, and with a look of horror on his face, he banged on the rear of the car with his left hand.

“At this point, the car shot backwards very quickly about two car lengths and crashed into a wall.”

After the collision, Stamper told Mrs Stringer that she was okay and that she wanted to drive home, clearly unaware she had knocked over the elderly man, said the prosecutor.

Mr Thompson’s body was found beneath the car, his injuries so severe that he could not be saved, despite the quick arrival of medical help.

Later, in her interview with police, Stamper said she had been trying to “straighten up the car” and she admitted she had seen both the woman with the baby and Mr Thompson.

Asked why she had continued to reverse after gesturing for Mrs Stringer to cross, she said: “I don’t know.”

She admitted not looking around or checking her mirror to see if the pensioner was in the way of her car, which is an automatic.

She suggested she may have gone for the brake but hit the accelerator instead.

Having been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, her condition carries a greater than normal risk of hitting the wrong foot pedals, Mr Bisarya told the court.

Describing her actions as “sheer carelessness”, he added: “There was a failure to take the appropriate action to see the pedestrian in not looking in the rear mirror.”

The court also heard from Mr Thompson’s widow, Shirley.

Married for 52 years, she was waiting at their home in Lazonby for Mr Thompson to bring their lunch.

She said: “I was wondering where he was because it was taking a lot longer than expected. I watched the lunchtime news and saw a report about an accident in a Penrith car park where an elderly man had been killed. Shortly afterwards, I saw two policemen in yellow jackets walk past our window and I knew something was wrong. The first thing I said was; ‘oh no, not Chris’.”

The officers told her that Mr Thompson was dead, having been killed instantly.

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