A lorry driver has been jailed after he killed a “one in a billion” policeman when his truck strayed on to a motorway hard shoulder where the road traffic officer was helping a woman motorist.
Andrew Abernethy’s orange Scania articulated lorry smashed into PC Mark Goodlad’s BMW 5 police vehicle near junction 29 of the M1 on October 24 last year.
The officer had parked behind a Suzuki car to help its driver, Sharon Burgess, after he pulled her over to tell her it had a flat tyre.
The 41-year-old West Yorkshire policeman was leaning into the boot of her car looking for her spare when he was trapped as his 4x4 was pushed into him.
Abernethy said later he had “lost momentary concentration” when he felt something in his eye and took his glasses off to try and clear it.
PC Goodlad, 41, died from multiple injuries. Mrs Burgess, who had been standing nearby on the verge and was struck a glancing blow suffered minor injuries but had had severe psychological effects since the crash, Leeds Crown court heard.
Andrew Dallas, prosecuting, said it was the Crown’s case the lapse of concentration was not momentary.
Investigation showed the lorry travelled down the hard shoulder for between 120 and 250 metres, which translated to between 4.8 and 10 seconds.
He said Abernethy should have been alerted by the sound from crossing cat’s eyes and the rumble strip and by the time the lorry hit the police vehicle square on he was starting to go on to the grass verge. That showed “prolonged and complete inattention to the road ahead”.
Abernethy, 45 of Rembrandt Walk, Oldham was jailed for two years nine months and disqualified from driving for three years after he admitted causing the officer’s death by dangerous driving.
Judge Scott Wolstenholme told him: “You hadn’t been paying attention to the road for a considerable period of time in driving terms, all the while, trundling along in that enormous truck at 50mph.”
It would have been “obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous”.
Police investigators believed the lorry’s drifting off the road showed signs of being a sleep-related accident but with no other evidence to support this theory the judge said he had to sentence on basis of the defendant’s version of events.
Gary Woodhall said Abernethy had a clean driving record and wished he “could turn the clock back”.
He had only been driving for about a hour from near Oldham taking an 8,000 kilogramme load of bedding to Chesterfield when he said he felt pricking in his eye. The next day he was found to have a corneal abrasion.
PC Goodlad who helped to look after his disabled father Barry, left a widow, Helen, whom he had recently married, and a son Ben, now 15, from a previous marriage.
After the case she said in a statement: “The past 13 months have been agonising and today has been no different, though it does at least bring some closure for myself, my family and Mark’s family.
“We all know that Mr Abernethy did not set out that day with the intention of taking a life but it is without doubt that he is solely responsible for the death of my husband.
“Mark wasn’t just part of my life. There are no words to describe how much I love and miss him. He was the most incredible, honourable and inspirational person that one could hope to meet.
“Mark loved his job and took great pride in his duties. He never overlooked any opportunity to help people because that’s why he joined the force and that’s where he found himself that day – at the side of a lady needing help.
“Mark died doing what he did best. He was a hero at work and a hero at home to his family. His death has not just affected those who knew him the best, but so many others whom he came into contact with throughout his life.
“It is no exaggeration to say he was one in a billion. He made me proud every single day.”
Whatever the sentence she had been robbed “of the life I had dreamed of with the person I loved more than anything in the world and Mark’s son has been left without his amazing father.
“I hope Mr Abernethy realises the devastation he has caused and that he feels genuine remorse for his actions.”
DCI Simon Atkinson said Mark was a well-liked and highly-respected officer within the “police family” but policing was a dangerous profession.
“He lost his life doing what officers do day in and day out, namely showing concern for and a desire to help others in difficulties and the force has been tremendously saddened by his loss.”