A hotel owner who hit and killed a bride’s mother the day before her wedding has been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.
Nicholas Bannister ran over Judith Wadsworth as she crossed an access road near the main entrance to the Coniston Hotel, near Skipton, North Yorkshire in February 2020.
He has been on trial at Bradford Crown Court since last week accused of causing death by careless driving – but the case has collapsed today.
A jury heard how Mr Bannister’s Range Rover had just pulled out from a small road from the reception area and was travelling at 9-12mph when he struck Mrs Wadsworth.
The 64-year-old only stopped his vehicle another 20 metres down the road when he heard a ‘terrible noise’ from under his car, the court heard.
‘I just didn’t see her’, he said during a police interview just hours after the incident on February 7, 2020.
Mrs Wadsworth, 66, was collecting boxes from her vehicle in the hotel car park on the eve of her daughter Rebecca Blacker’s wedding and was returning to the main reception when the incident happened.
The grandmother tragically died at the scene and Mr Bannister denied the charged of driving without due care and attention.
And he has now been acquitted by the jury after prosecutor Michael Smith said there was no longer a prospect of conviction based on the evidence available.
Judge Jonahan Gibson ordered jurors to find him not guilty and said it was ‘an entirely appropriate decision in my view’.
The jury of seven women and four men had also previously heard that hotel employee Natasha Hobson-Shaw was the only witness to the collision as she drove towards Mr Bannister’s car.
She had stopped her vehicle in order for him to make his manoeuvre.
Mr Smith had said: ‘She saw Judith Wadsworth at, or approaching the crossing, she saw Mr Bannister drive, she saw Mrs Wadsworth cross the road, and she saw Mr Bannister drive into her.
‘There is no doubt Mrs Wadsworth did step into the roadway and no doubt Mr Bannister drove into her and over her, which is what she saw.
‘It was clear from their conversation when they stopped and got out of the car, the defendant had no clue what had happened.’
Mr Bannister had said the incident happened after he turned from the short road from the main entrance onto an access road through the estate.
He explained: ‘I turned right and the first I was aware was a terrible noise I heard from under my car. I assumed something had gone wrong with my car.
‘I saw the deceased lady in the road. A lot of blood at the scene. We did what we could. I called for support from the team.’
Family members and staff rushed out from the hotel after the collision and emergency services tried to save Mrs Wadsworth despite her severe injuries.
‘They came, and we did what we could,’ Mr Bannister added. ‘But, sadly, it was in vain.’
Experts told the court how it was not possible to work out exactly where the impact took place but was in the vicinity of the walkway across the access road from the car park.
How the trial collapsed
The prosecution case ran into difficulties during the evidence of the police officer who oversaw the investigation, PC Emma Drummond, who told jurors that she had recorded the exact position of Mrs Wadsworth’s Mini car in the hotel car park in her notebook.
Lisa Judge, defending Mr Bannister, told the court that this information had not been made available to the defence team and the notebook had not been disclosed by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
Ms Judge said these ‘flagrant failures on behalf of the prosecution’ meant much of the case presented against her client was no longer admissible, especially relating to a reconstruction done by the police in the hotel grounds two years after the incident.
She told Judge Gibson that the information about the location of the Mini fundamentally changed how the reconstruction could be interpreted by the various experts who gave evidence in the trial, including collision investigators and conspicuity consultants.
The defence barrister had already criticised the police’s reconstruction as she questioned the experts, police and other witnesses, pointing out that it was impossible to know exactly where the Range Rover was positioned at the time of the collision and where Mrs Wadsworth was as she crossed the road.
Ms Judge also questioned whether a GoPro camera strapped to a headrest gave an accurate representation of what a driver would see as they negotiated the turn.
Mr Bannister, of Bell Busk, is a well-known figure in the north of England, especially in the racing community as a horse owner and the chairman of Haydock Park Racecourse.
His son Harry is a jump jockey.
Before taking over the hotel, Mr Bannister worked in investment banking – he said he did not wish to comment as he left court.
Earlier this year, the driver of a Croydon tram which derailed in 2016, killing six people, was cleared of breaking health and safety laws.
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