Dad-of-three breaks down in tears as he describes how he drove over his neighbour's child

A motorist accused of driving over his neighbour's five-year-old son and killing him broke down in tears as he told a jury how he had not seen the child,

Thursday, 1st September 2016, 5:02 pm
Updated Thursday, 1st September 2016, 6:06 pm

David Cowell said he was moving at just 3mph when he turned left and crushed tragic Riley Ferguson on a shared driveway.

The father-of-three claimed he was a highly qualified driver and had taken all the appropriate steps to avoid an accident but could not see young Riley lying on the ground at the bottom of the driveway.

The 42-year-old had however encountered children on the driveway only the night before tragedy which happened as he was returning home to watch an England football match on a sunny afternoon in June 2015.

Cowell told jurors at Aylesbury Crown Court that he was in first gear and another child was standing nearby when he felt a bump and thought he had run over a bike as he turned left into the driveway off the cul-de-sac in Woodspring Court, Monkston.

He stopped immediately and reversed his large Vauxhall Insignia car to reveal his young victim had been run over on his nearside.

He told the court: “I just started screaming, ‘Oh my God, oh my God, I ran over Riley’. I ran over, blood was coming out of his mouth and ears.

“I thought to myself I couldn’t just leave him there.”

He said he carried the five-year-old and placed him on nearby grass in Woodspring Court before paramedics arrived. However tragic Riley died from his injuries after being taken to a hospital and later to a hospice.

Cowell broke down in tears as he was cross-examined by prosecution counsel in the witness box. He denies causing death by careless driving.

The defendant, who has since moved to Deacon Crescent on Middleton, said he was in “no rush whatsoever” and went down Tewkesbury Lane at “no more than 10mph” before turning left into Woodspring Court.

The court heard he had contacted local councillors on four separate occasions to complain that Tewkesbury Lane was a “death trap” with cars parked on both sides of the road.

“Cars would go down that road at break-neck speed... that was the concern I raised time and time again but to no avail,” he said.

He added that he was looking left and right “multiple times” but a dip in the road and foliage and fencing blocked his view of the bottom of the driveway.

“I couldn’t see anyone else, I couldn’t see Riley,” he said.

“The Vauxhall Insignia has such a low gear ratio that as a force of habit, you drop it to the lowest gear possible.”

Not doing so would be “deemed as careless driving”, he added, answering questions from his his defence barrister, Shaun Esprit.

“Time and time again there were bikes - and kids used to sit on the driveway both on mine and No 1’s (next door)..

“I was trying to be as safe as possible.

“As I’ve come down the hill, I’ve looked and I’ve seen [the child] and only [her] on the corner. I’ve then driven down and slowed right down because you’re actually doing a u-turn, a left and then a left on a hill,” the jury heard him say.

“I have had advanced driver training... I was making sure [the girl] had not moved or dropped a ball or run out.

“I checked left, in front of me to the side of me and behind me, as you do. I used all the appropriate checks but at no point did I see Riley -I knew kids were around there but again, that is a practice that I do everyday.”

The court heard that Cowell told police in an interview after the death that he had encountered six girls sitting on the driveway at around 6pm the previous night.

Alan Blake, prosecuting, accused Cowell of putting a “slant” on his evidence today/yesterday (Thurs) when he denied they were sat on the same place Riley was run over.

The prosecutor said Cowell would not have hit young Riley if he had conducted all the appropriate checks as the defendant had claimed.

“The point is this. People used to congregate and play on the bottom of your driveway,” said Mr Blake.

Cowell replied: “In seven years driving into and out of that driveway, I’ve never hit anything before.”

The prosecuter then said: “Sadly on this occasion Mr Cowell you didn’t take all the steps you could have done to make sure the way ahead of you was clear, did you?”

Summing the prosecution case, he said: “Despite being unsighted, despite his knowledge of children on the driveway, despite the presence of such a child near the mouth of the driveway, he proceeded on to it, even though he could not see what was in front of him.

“That, the Crown says, falls below the standard of a competenct and careful driver because there was a risk, an evident risk.

“There was no hurry, he could have even gone slower, at a speed at which he could stop, he could have gone wider, he could have even stopped, he could have checked with [the child witness), or stepped out of his car.

“Sometimes extra and abnormal observations are required and this was one of the times and he didn’t do it.”

Mr Esprit said: “It is tempting to say, ‘actually, we know what happened, so anything that we can suggest that would prevent that, that he didn’t do means he is guilty’.

“That, members of the jury, is not the charge. The question in this case is whether or not he falls below the standard of a competent and careful driver. It is those words that provide the benchmark against which his actions should be measured.”

The jury was sent out to consider its verdict and the case was later adjourned until Friday when the jury members will conmtinue their deliberation.