Accidental death verdict for Whitby man

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A MAN who died after being knocked over by a car was more than twice over the drink drive limit, an inquest heard.

Melville Cook (57) of Saxon Road, in Whitby, died in the early hours of 18 September last year after being struck while he walked along the A171 on the outskirts of Whitby.

During his inquest at Scarborough County Court deputy coroner Richard Watson heard statements from witnesses who had seen Mr Cook staggering at the side of the road shortly before midnight.

Natasha Hill, who had been visiting relatives in Whitby, spoke at the inquest.

She said: “I was driving home just outside of Whitby when I thought I saw a man crawling up the side of the road.

“I said to my boyfriend did you see that and he said no. I doubted myself but I turned the car around to go back and check.

“It came out of nowhere, there was a man suddenly in the middle of the road, He was staggering and wasn’t going in a straight line.

“By the time we turned around again there was a car in the road and a man on the floor in front of it. We stopped to try and help.”

Mr Cook was hit by Sharon Auld, who had been to pick her partner up from a pub and was returning home to Whitby in her Peugeot 307.

She was tearful as she gave evidence at the inquest and said; “I was on the main road coming in to Whitby. The weather was dry but it was dark as there were no street lights. I was doing about 50.

“I didn’t see anything I just heard a noise and the windscreen shattered at the top left hand side. I thought it was an animal but then I saw a shoe in the middle of the road and said to my partner I had hit a person.”

The partners of both Miss Hill and Miss Auld both gave evidence via written statements and both described Mr Cook to have come “out of nowhere”.

The inquest heard from Mr Cook’s son Aiden Cook who had spent the day on 17 September with his father.

He said: “I met my father about 10.30am and was with him the full day. We went round a few pubs in town.

“We parted around 10.30pm. We went in to town and he said he was going to see a friend then was going home.

“I have tried to go over in my head how much we had to drink, but he was talking clearly though and walking normally.

“I don’t know why he was up where he was. I don’t know what he did during that period of time after he left us and the accident. He was walking fine, talking fine and was compos mentis, there is just that one hour that we cannot account for.”

The deputy coroner read from a toxicology report which revealed Mr Cook had 198 micro grams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, which is the equivalent of around two and half times over the drink drive limit.

Traffic Constable David Foster spoke at the inquest and explained that calculation revealed Miss Auld would have had just one second to react after seeing Mr Cook, which is much shorter than average driver reaction times.

TC Foster said: “It is my view that he was in a position whereby his back was turned to the oncoming car. He had been drinking and was unsteady on his feet, and was possibly disorientated.

“Given the dipped beam lights of Sharon’s car she wouldn’t have been able to see him, assess what action was required and take that action even if she had seen him.”

After hearing the evidence Mr Watson said: “There can be no criticism of Miss Auld’s driving or the was she reacted.

“It seem to me there was a number of matters that contributed to the cause of this accident. Firstly it was a dark road, and he was wearing dark clothing, and the ability to pick up his presence was limited.”

Mr Watson recorded a verdict of accidental death.