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HGV driver Gary Horbury spared jail over road collision which killed pensioner Margaret Fraser

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A ROYAL Navy veteran who caused the death of a popular pensioner in a "horrific" HGV collision in New Milton was spared a jail term.

Gary Horbury (58), of Ferndale Road, was at the wheel of a Travis Perkins lorry which collided with Margaret Fraser – who was 89 – on Station Road in New Milton on 20th January 2020.

Southampton Crown Court heard his lorry was travelling south and had gone through a green light at the junction but stopped due to a build-up of traffic.

Emergency services at the scene
Emergency services at the scene

Prosecutor Michael Forster described how Horbury's lorry was overhanging the pedestrian crossing on the junction and while it was stationary, the lights changed to red.

Mrs Fraser, who had waited at a nearby crossing, began to move around it using her walking frame, but the traffic ahead moved up and Horbury began to drive forward, colliding with Mrs Fraser and causing her fatal injuries.

Horbury, who did not check his front-facing mirror – which was subsequently found to be in the wrong position – did not know he had hit her and was alerted only by the shouts of two other female pedestrians telling him to stop, the prosecutor added.

He could have “craned” in his seat and got a better view of his mirrors or the front of his lorry, Mr Forster said, added that Horbury's driving fell well below the standard required.

CCTV from the nearby Boots and Charles Nobel jewellers showed the incident, Mr Forster explained, which contradicted claims by Horbury in interviews he had never been stationary.

In court Mrs Fraser was described as “independent, kind and caring”, by her daughter Debbie Murphy, who read an emotional statement and described the “devastating impact” her death had had on her family.

“We are heartbroken her life has been so cruelly cut short,” she said. “And we all have to live with the thought our beloved mother and grandmother being killed in such a graphic way and with none of her family beside her,” she said.

She had been a cyclist for 40 years without incident, and had been looking forward to celebrating her 90th birthday at the time, Mrs Murphy said.

The family had been robbed of Mrs Fraser, who never got to meet her great-grandchild, they added.

The effects on the family had been profound: Mrs Murphy’s brother Alan, was an HGV driver for the local council and had suffered heart problems, having to change jobs as a result of the stress.

They also said they had been forced to undergo “nine months of anxiety” since Horbury initially pleaded not guilty to the charge, and a trial was scheduled.

Margaret Fraser was about to turn 90
Margaret Fraser was about to turn 90

The court heard Horbury changed his plea and admitted a charge of causing death by careless driving shortly before the trial and on a certain basis.

That basis was not accepted by the crown but the judge, Christopher Parker, did not deem it necessary to hold a special hearing to determine that evidence.

Defending, Robert Bryant highlighted how his client was of previous good character and had been an HGV professional driver for 30 years with no prior blemishes on his record.

He said Horbury was a “quiet” man, adding he joined the Royal Navy at 18 and served onboard HMS Broadsword when it was bombed in the Falklands. He helped save the lives of 170 onboard the HMS Coventry.

This incident unearthed some long seated “demons” and Horbury had been diagnosed with suffering from PTSD, was undergoing counselling, had flashbacks and struggled sleeping, and was “very remorseful”, the court heard.

His income had suffered since he could not drive, and his wife’s cancer had progressed, the court heard, forcing her to give up work.

Mr Bryant highlighted how there could be “tragic consequences” from brief carelessness.

Sentencing, Judge Parker acknowledged that point, adding: “Mrs Fraser’s death was caused by your carelessness.

“There is in this case no intention of deliberate risk taking nor intent on your part to do any harm, no foresight on your part that any harm would be caused, but caused it has been.”

He banned Horbury from driving for 18 months and gave him a two-year community order, part of which will include 220 hours of unpaid work in the community.

* This version has been amended from an earlier version which said the HGV was a New Milton Sand & Ballast vehicle. The A&T apologises for the error.

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