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Driver who killed two people and a horse in road crash found guilty

A driver who killed two people in a horse-drawn carriage when she crashed into them from behind has been found guilty of causing death by careless driving.

Chloe Richards, 23,  who was cleared of the more serious charge of causing death by dangerous driving, had denied  she was driving aggressively on Lieutenant Ellis Way in Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire, before the crash in October 2018, in which both people and the horse were thrown into the air.

Michael Bates, 41 and from Potters Bar, and Donna Hicklin, 20, from Enfield, did not stand a chance, the jury at Luton Crown Court was told.

Prosecutor Neil King said the horse bled to death at the scene.

The prosecutor alleged Ms Richards, who drove a Mazda, was a “woman in a hurry”. On finding herself behind traffic in the outside lane of the dual carriageway, she became impatient and was using her horn, tailgating other drivers and raising her middle finger at one of them.

Although it was dusk, visibility was good, Mr King said.

Witness Ahmet Retvan told the court he was driving on the dual carriageway when he became aware of the horse and carriage ahead of him in the left-hand lane. He said he indicated and slowed to move into the right lane.

Mr Retvan said that between eight and 10 seconds later, a car went past him on the inside and almost immediately crashed into the horse and carriage.

He said he saw Mr Bates  and Miss Hicklin and the horse all “fly up into the air”, then fall to the ground.

Ms Richards pleaded not guilty to two offences of death by dangerous driving on 1 October 2018 and was cleared by the jury, who found her guilty of the lesser charges of causing death by careless driving.

She told the jury she was living with her parents in Cheshunt and worked in administration in London. The train she caught to Waltham Cross that evening was running 10 minutes late, something that happened regularly.

She denied she was in a hurry as she drove home, saying she later planned to take the car to a family friend for an MoT.

At one point a car suddenly braked in front of her in the right-hand lane, but she denied flashing her lights, beeping her horn or driving very close to the rear of it.

When the car moved over to the left-hand lane, she said, she raised her left hand but did not raise her middle finger at the driver.

As she approached the Goffs Oak roundabout, she said she saw two cars in the right-hand lane and assumed they were going right. She moved into the left lane, where the crash occurred.

She said she did not see the horse and carriage in front of her. Crying in the witness box, she said: “Before I manoeuvred I took my foot off the accelerator.

“There was something in front of me. At the impact, I closed my eyes. I did not know what it was. There was a big bang and I put my hazards on and exited the vehicle.”

She said she had not expected anything to be in the left-hand lane and had no time to brake.

Ms Richards said she was “devastated” by what happened and had not driven since.

Under cross-examination by Mr King, she said she did not feel she had done anything wrong and would not have done anything differently.

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He said she had been exceeding the 50mph limit by a small amount, but she said she was doing no more than 50 when she changed lanes.

“Is it possible you just did not look as you were in such a hurry; did that happen?” Mr King asked. She replied: “No.”

He went on: “You didn’t look or you didn’t look properly. She replied: “I did look. I didn’t see it.”

She denied she had been driving aggressively earlier saying: “I was driving carefully.”

Mr King said: “We have heard three drivers saw [the horse and carriage] and manoeuvred around it safely.Is the difference you were in a hurry and performing an erratic manoeuvre into that lane?” She replied: “ No.”

Judge Richard Foster adjourned sentence until tomorrow (31 July).

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