Driver on trial in private prosecution over death of cyclist


A hairdresser accused of knocking down and killing a 70-year-old cyclist during the evening rush hour has gone on trial at the Old Bailey in an "unusual" private prosecution.

Gail Purcell, 59, allegedly failed to spot teacher Michael Mason as he rode ahead of her along Regent Street, central London, in February 2014.

Her Nissan car crashed into Mr Mason, sending him flying into the air, landing in the road head-first, the court heard. 

Mr Mason suffered a "very severe injury to the brain" and died in hospital days later, having never regained consciousness.

Purcell, who worked at a hair salon in central London, denies causing his death by her careless driving.

Opening the case, Simon Spence QC told jurors: "Unusually, it is not the CPS bringing the case against Ms Purcell. It is a private organisation. That does not in any way affect your approach to the case."

He told how the victim had been cycling north towards Broadcasting House at about 6.23pm on the evening of February 25 2014 when he was hit by Purcell's car from behind. 

Witness Carmel McLoughlin described seeing Mr Mason "flying through the air", the court heard.

BBC worker Neil Trevithick, who dialled 999, said the car was going about 20mph before it pulled up after the crash.

Sophia Tran-Thomson allegedly saw Purcell come over and say: "I'm the driver. It was me. Is he okay? I just didn't see him."

In police interview, Purcell, of St Albans, Hertfordshire, said: "I didn't see anybody from my's like they came from the sky."

Mr Spence told jurors that it was a "very sad case" but they should not let feelings of sympathy affect them.

He said the evidence would show that Mr Mason's bike was illuminated front and back and the road was well lit and not overly busy for the time of day.

He said: "The prosecution case is that for whatever reason, the defendant simply did not see a cyclist ahead of her in the traffic in circumstances where she should have done and drove into the back of him, knocking him from his cycle, and causing fatal head injuries."

The trial continues.

Before the jury was sworn in, trial judge Gerald Gordon QC said the case was being brought by the Cyclists' Defence Fund, a subsidiary of Cycling UK.

He told jurors: "Therefore, they being party to the prosecution clearly just as the CPS may not serve in other trials so in this trial we do not want members or contributors to either of those bodies to serve."