A 60-year-old woman was today jailed after she stopped her 4×4 in front of a man lying in the road – but mistook him for a scarecrow and then drove straight over him.
Marian Watt was driving home from a friend’s house when she spotted Laurence John, 55, lying in the country lane and stopped her 3,300kg Toyota Land Cruiser.
But despite getting out of the vehicle to check Mr John, Watt decided he was simply a scarecrow, got back in the heavyweight 4×4 and crushed him, leaving Mr John multiple broken bones and a punctured lung.
A court today heard it was ‘a truly catastrophic lapse in judgement’ on her part. Mr John, who had been walking home from a pub, had serious breaks in his pelvis, ribs and spine, as well as a punctured lung and cut on the back of his head.
In a harrowing impact statement he read to the court, Mr John said he sometimes wished Watt had done a ‘decent job and killed me’ due to the unbearable pain.
Judge Keith Cutler told Watt no ‘careful or competent driver’ would have done what she did as he jailed her.
Watt stared down at the floor and had to be handed a tissue as Winchester Crown Court, Hampshire, heard the shocking details of the incident.
Prosecutor Christopher Amis told the court Watt had drunk two glasses of wine while watching a game of rugby with friends.
As she drove home on a dark, narrow lane in Alresford, Hampshire, she spotted Mr John lying in the road on November 25 last year.
The prosecutor said Mr John had been to a nearby pub with his partner Diane Ashill and her brother and stayed on to finish his drink when they left.
He said: ‘The landlord formed the view Mr John was not drunk, but was, at most, a little merry.
‘The pub was in a narrow country lane, with high hedges and which is not much wider than the width of a normal car.
‘Mr John left the pub and, for some reason, which, even now, remains unclear, he ended up lying down prone in the road.
‘The defendant, Mrs Watt, lived in the local area and had spent the evening visiting friends.
‘She had watched rugby and told police she had drunk two glasses of wine, no more. She said she was unaffected by the alcohol when she left her friend’s.
‘Mrs Watt was driving her Toyota Land Cruiser home and her account is she came across Mr John lying in the road.
‘She thought he was a Guy Fawkes guy, or a scarecrow, and she stopped, got out and had a look and satisfied herself he was a scarecrow.
‘It may be important to remind ourselves that she accepted as she drove over him, she was aware of her wheels going over something, as if going over a bump.’
The court heard Mr John, who was an avid cyclist before the incident, suffered serious injuries and spent four months in hospital.
He was only found when another drinker from the pub heard what she thought was an animal in distress and went to investigate. He had suffered multiple breaks to his pelvis, crushed vertebrae, broken ribs, a punctured lung and a large cut on the back of his head.
Victim Mr John told the court: ‘I spent four months in various hospitals but I will never regain the fitness I had before the accident.
‘I left hospital on a wave of adrenaline and euphoria that I would recover, but that quickly evaporated.
‘Now I spend 75 per cent of my time lying down or upside down on an inversion table like a bat to relieve the pain.
‘The pain level has not reduced. I do at times have to remind myself I was lucky to survive.
‘I do at times think it would have been better for Marian Watt to have done a decent job on me and killed me.
‘I met up with some friends recently and one has a Toyota Land Cruiser. I knew they were coming, but as soon as I saw the same type of car I had been crushed by and the size if it, I was reduced to tears.’
Watt, of Alton, Hampshire, was convicted of causing serious injury by dangerous driving at trial.
Representing Watt, David McNeill said his client was sorry for the serious injuries Mr John suffered.
He added: ‘This was a truly catastrophic lapse in judgement that led to the injuries Mr John suffered.
‘It’s plain the affect this has had on her. It is genuine remorse for what happened.’
Jailing her for a year, Judge Cutler said: ‘You took a dreadful decision.
‘Mr John had slipped over and was lying in the road. Your dreadful decision was, having stopped, you drove your car over him with no care or understanding.
‘That was found by a jury to be a decision no careful or competent driver would have taken.
‘You told the jury he appeared to be just a bundle left in the road. You spotted a leg and decided he was just a Guy.
‘It is rather chilling to hear him say, in effect, he wished you had done a decent job and killed him.’
The judge also banned Watt from driving for two years after her release and ordered she take an extended test to regain her licence.
Speaking after the sentencing, PC Dave Mitchell, from the Serious Collision Investigation Unit, said: ‘This is a highly unusual case but what happened on that night had tragic and far reaching consequences for the victim.
‘At all times of year but especially with the nights drawing in and with Halloween and Bonfire Night around the corner, drivers need to be aware of unusual activity.
‘If you see something in the road, it is your duty to ensure it is safe to continue.
‘The timing of this case serves as a reminder to anyone who gets behind the wheel of any vehicle that they are responsible for all the decisions they take as a driver.’