Barugh Green collision: Mini driver goes on trial accused of performing 'dangerous' overtake which killed Yorkshire postman

A Mini driver has gone on trial accused of performing a ‘dangerous’ overtaking manoeuvre which sent a family car into the path of a lorry, killing the driver.

Barrie Barker, 69, denies causing the death of postman Alexander Firth by dangerous driving and serious injury to Mr Firth’s new wife Kirsty and his 10-year-old son from a previous relationship.

The collision took place on the A637 Claycliffe Road in Barugh Green, near Barnsley, in April 2022.

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Mr Firth, who lived in Leeds and worked at Royal Mail’s delivery office in Seacroft, was driving a Vauxhall Astra with his wife Kirsty in the passenger seat and his son in the back. They were both in their 30s at the time and recently married.

Royal Mail worker Alex Firth died at the scene of the collision and his wife Kirsty and son were seriously hurtRoyal Mail worker Alex Firth died at the scene of the collision and his wife Kirsty and son were seriously hurt
Royal Mail worker Alex Firth died at the scene of the collision and his wife Kirsty and son were seriously hurt

They were leaving an Aldi supermarket and at a roundabout pulled out ahead of Barker’s red Mini Cooper.

The Crown Prosecution Service’s case is that despite the Astra in front of him accelerating away, Barker decided to pull out and overtake it when there was a HGV approaching in the opposite carriageway. They allege that the Mini clipped the back wheels of the Firths' car, causing it to spin out of control and strike the lorry head-on. Mr Firth died at the scene.

Yet the trial at Sheffield Crown Court heard that Barker instead claims that the Astra was travelling slowly as they left the roundabout and only suddenly sped up when he was already level with it in the opposite lane, ‘pushing’ him further out as he tried to pull back in and leaving him unable to complete the overtaking.

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The HGV, a Freshlink-branded lorry delivering goat’s milk to Barnsley, was travelling at around 45-50mph when the Astra ploughed into its front. The car was badly damaged, with the roof collapsing and the windscreen ripped off.

An off-duty North Yorkshire Police firearms officer and a community nurse who were passing both gave assistance. Mrs Firth regained consciousness at the scene and Mr Firth’s son was trapped in the back seat.

When interviewed at the roadside by police, Barker said: “He kept me on the wrong side of the road. I have no idea why he did it. We were going the same speed. I was trying to get past and he hit my back end. He accelerated when I was slightly in front. I thought we’d both stop after the contact, but then heard a big crunch.”

Kirsty Firth suffered a bleed to the brain, fractures to her ribs, pelvis and legs, and kidney and liver lacerations that were treated at the Northern General Hospital. Her stepson was taken to Sheffield Children’s Hospital with a broken arm.

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South Yorkshire Police were able to obtain CCTV footage of the build-up to the collision from businesses nearby, including Aldi, a Toyota dealership and the Chestnut Tree public house. The Freshlink lorry was also fitted with a dashcam.

Barker told police he was on medication for a number of conditions at the time of the collision, including diabetes, gout, anxiety and high cholestrol. He was not aware of any defects to his Mini.

When interviewed by police at a later date, Barker denied driving dangerously and said he felt it was ‘safe and appropriate’ to overtake. He claimed the Astra’s position caused him to ‘remain between lanes’.

Officers showed him CCTV footage from which forensic experts had identified showed a gap of 38 metres between their vehicles, but when asked by Detective Constable Ian Talbot whether he could not have slowed down and stayed behind the Firths, Barker replied ‘no comment’.

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The camera footage also showed that the Astra had remained within its lane and had not moved to the right.

After the cars were examined, there was found to be damage to the Mini’s front bumper and wheel scrape marks on the Astra.

Police analysis of the CCTV showed that between two cameras, the Astra accelerated from 36-53mph and the Mini from 45-53mph, but that both ended up ‘side by side’ and travelling at the same speed.

The Crown has brought the prosecution with the argument that Barker should have pulled back and remained behind the Astra once he realised it was accelerating, and aborted the overtake.

The trial continues.