Pregnant death-crash driver 'did not want to be stuck behind slower vehicle'

A woman who lost her unborn child in a head-on crash which resulted in the death of another motorist made her decision to overtake two cars in one go because she did not want to be stuck behind a slower vehicle "for even two miles", a court has heard.

Laura Matthews-James, 35, lost control of her Fiat 500 and collided with another vehicle in the oncoming lane on the B4300 near Carmarthen, South Wales, on February 26 last year, Swansea Crown Court heard.

Matthews-James, a biomedical scientist, of Penygroes, Carmarthenshire, who denies causing the death of the driver of the other vehicle, 54-year-old Robert Hitchcock, by driving without due care and attention, was seven months pregnant at the time.

She was seriously injured and had to be airlifted to hospital where doctors discovered the child had died and delivered it stillborn by emergency Caesarean section, the court heard.

On Friday in his closing speech to the jury, Jim Davies, for the prosecution, questioned Matthews-James' decision to overtake two cars at once a suggested it was a result of a "degree of impatience" as "she didn't want to be stuck behind this slower moving vehicle for even two miles".

He asked: "Would the careful and competent motorist have pressed on and overtaken the second car in an approaching bend and an oncoming car beyond?"

Mr Davies said the prosecution case was the accident was caused by Matthews-James driving below that standard.

He described the defence expert's evidence - that mud and debris in the road near where Matthews-James would have completed her overtake could have caused her to lose control of the vehicle - as a "theoretical possibility", and added: "In any event she should not have lost control of the car."

Mr Davies urged the jurors to decide their verdict without being "deflected by any feelings of sympathy in one direction or another".

The court heard Matthews-James was driving to work at Glangwilli Hospital in Carmarthen where she worked in the haematology department at 8.45am when she overtook two other vehicles in one manoeuvre.

The driver of the lead vehicle said he would have been driving at 40mph while the court heard Matthews-James's car was going at between 50 and 55mph.

Matthews-James told the jury she had driven that route to work for five years and had overtaken on the same stretch of road previously as "you can see quite far ahead".

In his speech, Ignatius Hughes, QC, for the defence, said: "This is a woman not only driving along in no hurry, definitely not using a mobile phone, on her way to work on a road she has used many times and she knows well - it is also someone who has never done anything remotely like this.

"She has never driven carelessly ... she has never had so much as a point on her licence."

Mr Hughes urged the jury to consider the evidence of eyewitnesses including Hannah Waldron, who was driving the first car Matthews-James overtook, and who described the manoeuvre as "calm" and "not dangerous".

He told them to consider the situation faced by Matthews-Jones of being behind two cars, the front one being driven at 40mph by "a man of a certain age ... who thinks the speed limit is 50mph when it is 60mph".

Mr Hughes said that driver - Aelwyn Rhys Jones - told the court the rear of Matthews-James' Fiat "twitched or wavered" as it pulled back in "in about the right place where this (mud and) debris is".

The trial was adjourned until Monday for the judge's summing up.


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