Jamie Cantrill inquest: Yorkshire power station contractor, 29, died after being hit by speeding driver after leaving golf club dinner
Jamie Cantrill, 29, was killed instantly in November 2019 when he was hit by a Seat Ibiza soon after he had got out of a taxi near his home in the village of Warmsworth, near Doncaster.
Despite CCTV and witness evidence suggesting the Ibiza reached speeds of 56mph in a 40mph zone, police did not have enough evidence to charge driver James McGarry, 28, with causing death by dangerous driving.
Instead McGarry, who did not stop at the scene, tried to conceal the car under a tarpaulin and removed damaged parts after the collision, was charged with dangerous driving and sentenced to 16 months in prison at Sheffield Crown Court earlier this month.
The inquest held at Doncaster Coroner’s Court on Thursday, four years after the fatal incident, heard that Mr Cantrill, a scaffolding contractor at Ferrybridge power station, most likely slipped and fell into the path of the Ibiza while trying to cross the road.
Footage from the camera of a house near the Holiday Inn showed that Mr Cantrill, whose son was just six months old when he died, was in the carriageway for between one and three seconds and that McGarry was 27 metres away from him when he became visible as a hazard. A car being driven at the limit of 40mph would not have been able to avoid striking Mr Cantrill.
Mr Cantrill’s mother Jane and partner Tanya Wilkinson, whom he had known since primary school, both gave evidence to the hearing. They described him as popular and sporty, playing rugby, cricket, golf and football and having been part of Doncaster Rovers and Scunthorpe United youth teams. Around 400 people turned up at his funeral, including his old teachers.
Miss Wilkinson was looking after their baby and her daughter from a previous relationship while Mr Cantrill went to a function at Wheatley Golf Club with friends. They were in contact during the evening and he told her he was going home via Doncaster city centre, the last messages being exchanged shortly before midnight. She heard about the collision on a local Facebook group and went to the scene, fearing the worst.
The taxi driver who dropped Mr Cantrill off outside the Holiday Inn said that he did not seem drunk on the journey and was carrying rather than using his mobile phone before he crossed the road. He did not realise there had been a collision, but while turning his cab around, was overtaken by a white car at speed and then saw it go through a red light. He estimated its speed as around 60mph.
A woman dropping her friend off in Denaby saw the white Seat pass her in the direction of Doncaster being ‘driven erratically’ and observed that the driver nearly lost control on a bend. She said the car ‘flew by’ and could have been going at 80mph in a 40mph zone.
A further witness, Stephanie Clark, encountered the Ibiza in Conisbrough, and described how the driver ‘shot off fast’ from a set of lights ahead of her. She was the first on the scene of the collision and discovered Mr Cantrill’s body as well as a large debris field including white fibreglass car parts.
Another driver, Stephen Allott, passed the Ibiza as he drove towards Warmsworth minutes later, and noted that its front headlight was missing. He also noticed its speed and said he was ‘convinced it had been involved in something’, believing it had most likely clipped a parked vehicle.
The Ibiza was also seen in Mexborough, the direction it had travelled from, by two police officers in an unmarked car on another operation, who had taken down its details after noticing it was being driven ‘flat out like a racing car’
A postmortem established that Mr Cantrill died from severe chest, abdominal and pelvic injuries and had consumed a quantity of alcohol.
When police arrested McGarry at his home, he told them ‘it’s me you’re looking for’ and they found the Ibiza on the drive beneath a cover. When interviewed, McGarry said only that he was not driving dangerously and that Mr Cantrill had slipped and fallen in front of the car. He said he had fled the scene out of panic.
South Yorkshire Police forensic collision investigator Fiona Wilson was questioned extensively about her findings. She told the inquest that there was no evidence of emergency braking or swerving and that it was clear that the Ibiza’s front wing had been deliberately removed for repairs after the collision. Missing parts matched debris found at the scene.
She added that CCTV footage was recovered from two petrol stations along the route from Warmsworth to Doncaster as well as from the traffic lights where McGarry pulled up beside Stephanie Clark’s Mini. He accelerated away ‘visibly faster’ than the Mini and was at least six seconds ahead of her in the next two clips.
However, it was the footage recovered from the two domestic cameras on Quaker Lane which showed Mr Cantrill’s legs stepping into the road and established that he was only briefly visible before being hit.
A police reconstruction found the Ibiza’s likely speed to be 56mph around 105 metres before the impact, and although it was faster than other traffic in all footage, the investigation could not conclusively provide an exact speed.
Miss Wilson added that after factoring in an average response time of two seconds after seeing Mr Cantrill enter the road, it would ‘not be possible to bring any vehicle to a stop at 40mph’ let alone a higher speed. She said it was not possible to say whether he would have survived if the speed had been lower.
She added that Mr Cantrill’s body position was low rather than upright, suggesting he was likely falling or trying to get up when he was hit, and that his alcohol intake could have affected his perception of the oncoming car’s speed.
Recording a conclusion of death in a road traffic collision, assistant coroner Simon Tait said: “I am satisfied that on a balance of probabilities, James McGarry was driving at excessive speed. Was the collision avoidable? This has been the most difficult part of this case. There is no evidence of any reaction from the driver, but if he was doing 40mph would he have been able to stop? The answer is no.
"I recognise the family’s point that if he had set off at the same speed as the Mini, Jamie may have got across the road. The difficulty is this is too much speculation. Jamie may still have fallen and still been in the road. There is not enough evidence to conclude it would have made a difference.
"I realise the family may be disappointed by these findings, but they are made on the basis of evidence before me and I cannot deal with issues of criminal liability.”