Oliver Varey trial: Yorkshire footballer goes on trial accused of killing motorcyclist by careless driving as they both overtook traffic

A personal trainer and lifeguard killed a motorcyclist on a Yorkshire road when he pulled out to overtake another car, a court heard today.

Richard Thomson, 69, died when the side of Oliver Varey’s Suzuki Swift struck his Kawasaki bike on Malton Road during the August Bank Holiday weekend of 2021.

Varey, 27, denies causing engineer Mr Thomson’s death by driving without due care and attention and on Monday his trial began at York Crown Court.

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Opening his case for the Crown Prosecution Service, Andrew Espley said that Varey was part of a short queue of traffic when he pulled out to overtake a single car in front of him.

Oliver VareyOliver Varey
Oliver Varey

However, at the same time Mr Thomson, who was behind him, was approaching having already decided to overtake the entire line of vehicles.

Varey claims he checked in his rear view mirrors, but the CPS said he ‘did not think that the bike would be on him as quickly as it was’.

Their case rests on the responsibility of a careful and competent driver, which requires them to check behind their vehicle before overtaking.

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Mr Espley claimed that this standard was not met as ‘Mr Varey should have known Mr Thomson was there and how fast he was going’.

Outlining the background of the incident, Mr Espley said Mr Thomson had travelled to Malton with his wife Jan from their home in Essex, planning to attend an annual meet for owners of Kawasaki ZZR1400 bikes. Although around 35 riders took part in the meet, Mr Thomson was at the head of a smaller group of five friends who set off together from John Warrington Motorcycles. He owned his own engineering business and the Kawasaki was described as his ‘toy’ which he regularly worked on.

The collision happened between Marton and Great Edstone and the other motorcyclists in his convoy are expected to give evidence before the jury.

Varey, of Mallard Drive in Malton, is a personal trainer who also works at Derwent Swim and Fitness Centre. In 2023, he received an award at the Ryedale Sports Awards for his charity fundraising efforts, which included running marathons. He was returning to Malton from a football match at Kirkbymoorside FC at the time of the collision and was still wearing football kit when arrested.

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Mr Thomson’s fellow bikers said that he was asked to lead the group because he was experienced at doing so. The prosecution said it was accepted by experts commissioned by both the Crown and the defence that the five riders had been travelling at above the 60mph speed limit, but it could not be agreed by how much.

One, Brian Howse, said Varey ‘suddenly’ pulled out while Mr Thomson was level with his car, but that he did not brake and instead the Swift pushed the motorcycle into the grass verge. Varey continued for half a mile without stopping before Mr Howse caught up with him, and later said he had been looking for a safe place to pull over. However, the prosecution argue that he more likely panicked.

A van driver who was travelling behind Varey, David Daniels, said he had chosen not to overtake when he could see four bikes in his mirrors, though Varey’s girlfriend, who was driving her own car with the van between them after watching his match, said that Mr Thomson was going faster than the other motorcyclists.

Varey told police that he had checked his mirrors twice before the overtaking and could not see a motorcycle during the manoeuvre.

Neither vehicle had any defects.

Giving evidence, Mr Thomson’s companion on the day Raymond Stafford said he was a ‘very good’ ride leader and an advanced motorcyclist.

The trial, set to last four days, continues.