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Driver cleared of killing cyclist in Britain’s first crowdfunded prosecution

Driver told jury that she "honestly didn't see" cyclist prior to fatal collision

06 April, 2017 — By William McLennan

A MOTORIST has been cleared of killing a Kentish Town cyclist after a private prosecution that was paid for by a charity crowdfunding drive.

Gail Purcell, who was found not guilty of causing death by carless driving, was accused of knocking down and killing Michael Mason as he cycled home on February 25, 2014.

A jury at the Old Bailey returned their verdict this  afternoon (Thursday), after deliberating for less than 20 minutes.

The teacher suffered a “very severe injury to the brain” and died in hospital over a fortnight later, having never regained consciousness, a jury was told.

The case was brought the Cyclists’ Defence Fund, not the Crown Prosecution Service. It is believed to be the first example of a crowdfunded prosecution in Britain.

The court heard that in the moments after the collision, which took place in Regent Street at around 6:20pm, Ms Purcell told police: “I honestly didn’t see him, but I did hear a noise.

“I was going straight and I think it must have come from nowhere.”

Tests carried out at the scene showed Ms Purcell had not been drinking and her vision was not impaired, the jury was told.

She later told detectives investigating the collision: “I didn’t see anything from my left. It’s like they came from the sky.”

Prosecutor Simon Spence QC said: “For whatever reason, the defendant simply did not see a cyclists ahead of her in the traffic circumstances where she should have done and drove into the back of him.”

The court heard that Mr Mason’s bike had been fitted with a lights, including a flashing red one on the rear.

Mr Spence told the jury that Mr Mason would “have been visible to an alert driver paying proper attention to the road”.

In a transcript of a police interview, read to the court, Ms Purcell was asked if she had been distracted by anything inside the car at the time of the collision.

She responded: “It wasn’t raining. I don’t think I was adjusting the heat. No I would say there is no activity. As far as I can remember there was no activity in my car.”

Ms Purcell was driving to her home in St Alban, Hertfordshire, from work at a high-end hair salon in Conduit Street at the time of the collision.

Eye witnesses described Mr Mason being throw into the air after being hit by Ms Purcell’s Nissan Juke.

The court heard that Terry Hyslop, who had been walking along Regent Street, told police he saw a figure “who appeared to be in the air heading head first towards the road.”

Ruth Essel, who was also walking on the pavement, said she saw Mr Mason “hit the front of the car, then the driver’s side of the windscreen then flew through the air landing almost in the middle of the road,” the court heard.

Mr Mason, who had lived in West Hampstead for 30 years and moved to Kentish Town shortly before his death, suffered “severe traumatic head injuries”, a fractured skull and bleeding on his lungs, among other injuries, a autopsy found.

The jury heard that his injuries were “largely to the left side, indicating significant impact at this point”.

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