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Eilidh Cairns' killer questioned over second London lorry fatality

Private Eye reports same driver involved in death of 97-year-old pedestrian in June this year

It has been reported that the driver of a lorry that struck and killed a 97-year-old woman as she crossed London’s Marylebone Road in June is the same man who was behind the wheel of the truck involved in the death of Eilidh Cairns in Notting Hill two years ago. The news comes little more than a week after Eilidh’s family asked a High Court judge to order a new coroner’s inquest into her death.

The allegation has been made in the latest issue of the investigative and satirical magazine Private Eye, published on Thursday, which says that the driver questioned by police after the death of Nora Gutmann, who settled in London after fleeing Nazi Germany prior to the Second World War, is the driver involved in the Eilidh Cairns case.

Press reports at the time of that fatal incident in June this year stated that police had bailed the driver of the lorry, although the media did not identify him. Private Eye now says that Metropolitan Police sources have confirmed to it that the lorry driver involved in the Eilidh Cairns case was also the one questioned after Ms Gutmann's death.

A tribute page entitled 'Nora Gutmann. Badass' has been set up on the social networking site, Facebook, to commemorate her.

Last October, Joao Lopes was fined £200 and had three points put on his licence after pleading guilty to driving with uncorrected defective eyesight, the only charge brought in connection with Eilidh’s death, and one that the driver had initially denied.

The magistrates sitting at Kingston Magistrates Court did not exercise their discretion to impose a driving ban on the 55-year-old from Dagenham.

However, just three months after the fatal incident in Notting Hill in February 2009, Lopes had failed an eye test and his driving licence was revoked. He got it back in April 2010, and returned to driving HGVs.

This evening, the London Green Party reacted to Private Eye’s revelation by posting a statement on its website in which Greater London Assembly Member and Mayoral Candidate Jenny Jones said: "If the same driver whose actions resulted in the death of a cyclist has now been involved in the death of a pedestrian this year, severe faults must exist in the system's response to fatalities on the roads.

"Profound change remains required in the way we approach road safety and dangerous driving if we are to avoid yet more needless deaths."

Green Party activist and Islington pedestrian campaigner Caroline Russell added: "Dangerous driving must be taken more seriously by the justice system. If we are to halt the current spate of tragic road deaths, we must learn the lessons from each case."

Earlier this month, Eilidh’s family asked a High Court judge to quash the verdict of accidental death that had been returned at the January 2010 coroner’s inquest into her death and order a new inquest.

Among other issues, the family maintains that coroner Dr Shirley Radcliffe would not permit questions to be asked at the inquest on whether Lopes had looked around sufficiently before Eilidh was struck, reports the Northumberland Gazette.

Anna Morris, acting for the family, said: “There was a failure to consider the wider impact of Eilidh’s death and the huge problem facing cyclists in London.”

However, Jonathan Hough, representing the coroner, insisted that the incident was of a type that is “tragically common,” and that no element of it would lead the coroner to consider that it “illustrated a systemic problem or that it might call for some specific response.”

Eilidh’s sister Kate, who since her sibling’s death has campaigned on cyclist safety issues, said: “Eilidh who was a strong and experienced cyclist had commuted the same 20-mile round trip for three years. The coroner concluded that Eilidh was probably in front of the lorry and that its front offside wheel clipped her rear bicycle wheel.

“Neither the police investigators nor the coroner considered it material to the collision that the collision report showed a 0.8 by 1.4-metre blind area to the front off-side of the lorry, an area in which a bicycle was effectively invisible to the driver, and an area that the new EU law on lorry mirrors was supposed to cover.

“Nor did they consider it germane that the mirror positions were checked to be in the correct position – for a six-foot-tall police officer – when the driver was only five feet and two inches tall.

“We are challenging Shirley Radcliffe in her failure to adjourn the inquest so that we could instruct our own expert witness; the thoroughness of inquiry into determining the events that lead to Eilidh’s death; and the lack of consideration of any Section 43 recommendations the coroner could make to prevent further similar deaths.”

The judge's decision is due shortly.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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Low Speed Wobble | 12 years ago

UPDATE: Joao Lopes was last week formally charged over the death of 97 year old Nora Gutmann. Does anyone know if he's still employed as a driver, or indeed still have the brass-neck enough to be driving at all? Or even leaving his home during daylight?

james-o | 12 years ago

A V Lowe, well commented. I'm just re-posting this from your comment to be sure it sinks in with people skimming through these comments -

"The truck in this incident had a tally of 2 killed and another in a wheelchair - all young women, and 2 of those crashes with the same driver."

I don't know what to say, I'm just stunned as well as saddened by that fact.

whizzkid | 12 years ago

Give it a few years and we'll probably read that he's killed a third, and a fourth......

skippy | 12 years ago


They say that a soldier killed in Theatre costs £1/2 m but then a cop moves on witnesses to a Cyclist's deth because they are blocking traffic ! Where does the buck stop ? When one of his family lies under the truck ?

Blogged about this on skippi-cyclist before i saw this story ad i am sure both the original magistrate and the coroner must be horrified to see their " Good natured leniency " lead to another death ?

How did this 5ft2inch excuse for a HGV driver get his license renewed after being deprived of it when his eyes were tested ?


The _Kaner | 12 years ago

Sad that in this day we (cyclists) are still seen as the primary blame 'components' in (m)any road collisions/fatalities.
In Ireland elderly drivers, HGV drivers and(despite changes to the law there are still..) unaccompanied 'L' drivers- yes even on the motorways- involved in many incidents such as this.
Very few prosecutions to my knowledge...never seem to hear any follow up stories regarding their the hands of the court.
It seems such a shame that there appears to be very little learned from previous cases (reported in the UK press)...It sickens me to think that the same person could be involved in more than once incident and be allowed back behind the wheel of what is essentially a dangerous apparatus - even at the hands of skilled drivers - here's hoping that future cases are scrutinised in order to prevent this happening...
At least in Ireland there is always a highly publicised 'Bank Holiday' effort by the Gardai regarding driving safety- data suggests that this is the time when most incidents are likely to happen- as I live in a more rural area I welcome Gardai 'spot checks'.
Unfortunately there is very little in the way of police presence at any other time in my area due to lack of funding, road quality is terrible and the driving skill is even many times I've had the 'obligatory' 2 inch pass by at speed(80kph+)by small & large(articulated) vehicles and have been clipped by wing mirror..elderly woman driver.
Thankfully any 'serious' injuries I've received have been due to my own over eagerness during bad weather and have not involved any other's hoping my luck holds out...

OldRidgeback | 12 years ago

I wasn't aware of the situation regarding that mixer truck AV and what you say is truly alarming.
Dangerous drivers need to be kept off the roads for everyone's sake. That some drivers should be involved in repeat fatalities is a travesty.

KirinChris | 12 years ago

A well-considered response A V, to which I would add that making delivery and movement to and from sites part of the health and safety risk assessment for all projects should be mandatory.

As I understand it at the moment the risk assessment (and by extension the liability that comes from failing to reasonably mitigate the risks) covers only the site itself and not the wider (and foreseeable) implications of putting several hundred or several thousand heavy vehicles in the surrounding environment.

On another tack, this is why when cycling in London I don't feel compelled to follow all the traffic rules and regulations. It has been made clear time and time again that the rules and regulations of the road are heavily slanted to motor vehicles. Even the simple fact that there are so many traffic lights, street furniture and other restrictions is a direct result of motorised traffic.

Why should cyclists have the responsibility to observe these when they are not part of the problem for which the rules are presented as the solution, nor do they appear to receive the protection and rights which are the flip side of responsibility.

If protestors can occupy Wall Street and the City, cyclists should take similar action to protest against unfair restrictions and demand equal rights and protection.

In my view it is time for a real cycling revolution. We have nothing to lose but our chains... oh bugger, now my hands are dirty.

A V Lowe | 12 years ago

This is not the first case of inadequacy in the law relating to drivers who have show the potential to kill or have actually been in crashes where others have been killed or injured just short of the loss of life.

In Colchester the death of a teenage girl when an 87 year old driver, drove into a group of pedestrians, happened days after a similar crash, sufficient to indicate the danger this driver was to others using the road, and attended by the Police, has prompted a campaign for a faster way to get a potentially dangerous driver off the road. The driver in this case also died shortly after the crash. If London's 'rioters' can end up in court 'before their feet touch' why can't the Police get this same rapid action to get a licence revoked?

I rolled up shortly after the driver of a concrete mixer had killed a cyclist on London Wall - turning to get from the offside lane into a narrow street banned to HGV traffic, and cutting up the traffic in the nearside lane - which included the young woman on a bike who went under his wheels. This was a typical in livery contract - a small operator contracted to drive his trucks in the colours of a well known company. The results of this crash are well known and made a major impact on a key concrete supplier. It was at the point where the City of London Police were becoming seriously concerned about the number of fatal crashes between construction trucks and 'soft' road users. The truck in this incident had a tally of 2 killed and another in a wheelchair - all young women, and 2 of those crashes with the same driver. This also presses the case to make the culpability track back to the operator, as the same operator names appear on reports of bad driving on local cycling forums. A question also of whether the Traffic Commissioner is effective, or properly supported by the courts, in their role of issuing and revoking both HGV driving licences and the licences to operate trucks and buses.

Sometimes the client, or project management do act (after all the trail eventually tracks back to their demands for deliveries, and spoil removal to a tight schedule, and reckless driving has resulted in summary termination of a contract. Names are known.

Painful though it may be to compile and read, I'd suggest that a review of the cycle fatalities resulting from collisions with HGV's in London will reveal some worrying detail, not least the over emphasis on the cyclist being at fault for being on the inside of that left turning truck - when they are put in that position by the driver overtaking the cyclist. Perhaps a greater emphasis on road awareness and a massive campaign to stop people cycling with earpieces - both recent reports on cyclists killed by a tram (Croydon) and train (Tyneside) had 'ipods' and earpieces recovered from the scene, with strong evidence that the rider was not aware of the noise, and warnings sounded from the rail vehicles.

tarquin_foxglove replied to A V Lowe | 12 years ago
A V Lowe wrote:

The truck in this incident had a tally of 2 killed and another in a wheelchair - all young women, and 2 of those crashes with the same driver. This also presses the case to make the culpability track back to the operator...

Sometimes the client, or project management do act (after all the trail eventually tracks back to their demands for deliveries, and spoil removal to a tight schedule, and reckless driving has resulted in summary termination of a contract.

I understand that the Police can ask the H&SE to investigate RTA's if they believe that a company's H&S failures may have contributed to the accident, say given the driver a route which took them up a no HGV road.

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