Feb 22 2012 By Jenny Coombes
A van driver who mowed down and killed a senior RAF officer as he was cycling home along the A40 has been warned he faces possible jail after he was convicted of death by careless driving today (Weds).
Paul Luker, 51, claimed he was blinded by the sun when he hit Group Captain Tom Barrett, the 44-year-old Station Commander of RAF Northolt, in March last year.
Gp Capt Barrett served as an aide-de-camp to the Queen, as well as in Iraq and Afghanistan, and had been awarded an OBE.
Described as an avid cyclist, he often used the journey from the base in Ruislip to his home in Beaconsfield, Bucks, as a training exercise.
He had travelled less than a mile when he was hit by Lukers transit van at 5.07pm on March 10.
It took a jury of five men and seven women just two-and-a-half hours to find Luker guilty of causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving.
Luker showed no emotion as the verdict was announced, while his wife wept in the public gallery.
Fellow motorists told of a loud bang and a twisted wheel flying through the air after the crash.
The impact caused Gp Capt Barrett, a married father-of-two, to be thrown off his bicycle and he landed on the roadside.
He was rushed to St Marys Hospital in Paddington but died from multiple injuries, Harrow Crown Court heard.
Prosecutor Adina Ezekiel said that Luker should have adapted his driving style if the conditions were poor.
The prosecution are not suggesting that Mr Luker set out deliberately or maliciously to collide with Gp Capt Barretts bicycle.
But the question is whether the driving was careless or inconsiderate said Ms Ezekiel.
Luker - who was driving at 50mph, under the speed limit - wept as he told how he simply could not understand why he did not see Gp Capt Barrett.
The self-employed delivery driver told how the crash had left him needing counselling and had stripped him of his happy-go-lucky personality.
Giving evidence Luker, who has been driving since 1984, said the sun had been quite low as he drove on the Greenford flyover.
"I was very short-sighted, I was struggling to see the brake lights of the car in front of me, so I decided I needed to slow down.
"At that point I was in the middle lane and the sun got worse, so I put a cap on but it didnt help much.
"The sun was as low that day as I have ever known.
"The only way I could get the sun out of my eyes was to put the sun visor fully down, but I would have been blinded by that, so I put it on an angle.
"I could see people flashing me for going too slow so I decided to go into the inside lane and remember looking in my mirror for motorcycles.
"All of a sudden I felt a bump."
Luker added: "I immediately slowed down and decided not to do an emergency brake because the car behind me was too close and stopping suddenly might have caused an accident, so I geared down.
"I thought I hit a deer. I never saw anything.
"I saw the bicycle wheels along the road and then I realised I hit a cyclist.
"I remember shouting oh no, oh no, I was in some sort of shock.
"Mr Barrett was lying face down and I saw blood coming out of his ear and mouth and I knew at that stage it was quite a problem.
"I just don't understand why I didn't see him," he said.
"I would have done everything in my power to avoid any accident.
"I think about it all the time. I was a pretty happy go lucky sort of fellow until that day."
Bailing Luker until March 26 while pre-sentence reports are prepared Judge John Anderson said: "It is common ground in this case that this was a momentary lapse of attention."
"Sentencing guidelines recommend a community order but you must understand that this offence carries a maximum of five years imprisonment and all options are open.
"You will be disqualified from driving but I have been persuaded in these exceptional circumstances for the time being to allow you to arrange your financial affairs so this does not devastate your family.
"I do this more out of mercy than anything else, but you understand that you will be disqualified for a lengthy period."
Luker, of Beaconsfield Road, Farnham Royal, Bucks, denied causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving.