A LORRY driver who killed a “one in a billion” police officer when his truck strayed on to the hard shoulder of a motorway in West Yorkshire has been jailed for two years and nine months.
Andrew Abernethy’s truck left the M1 near Wakefield, West Yorkshire, trapping Pc Mark Goodlad between his police car and another vehicle, Leeds Crown Court heard today.
Pc Goodlad was helping a stranded woman motorist with a flat tyre at the time.
A judge heard that Abernethy, 45, of Rembrandt Walk, Oldham, was driving an orange Scania articulated lorry which hit Pc Goodlad’s marked BMW X5 police car and a grey Suzuki Swift on the southbound carriageway of the M1, near the village of Crigglestone, in October last year.
The police car and the Suzuki were both stationary on the hard shoulder and officers said Pc Goodlad, 41, was between the two vehicles, helping the 51-year-old woman, Sharon Burgess.
Abernethy admitted causing death by dangerous driving.
Judge Scott Wolstenholme heard that Abernethy, who worked for a parcel firm in the Oldham area, set off from work with a load of bedding an hour before the collision.
The defendant told police he “lost momentary concentration” because he felt he had something in his eye and took his glasses off to try to remove the problem.
Police investigators believed the accident showed signs that Abernethy had fallen asleep at the wheel.
But with no other evidence to support this theory, the judge said he had to sentence on the basis of the defendant’s version of events.
Prosecutors said the lapse of concentration was not momentary.
Andrew Dallas, prosecuting, said a detailed investigation showed the lorry travelled down the hard shoulder for between 120 and 250 metres, which translated to between 4.8 and 10 seconds.
Mr Dallas said this showed “prolonged and complete inattention to the road ahead”.
The prosecutor said: “He drifted on to the hard shoulder and stayed there, notwithstanding the highly conspicuous obstruction ahead of it.”
The court heard that Pc Goodlad had pulled Mrs Burgess over to tell her about her flat tyre.
He began to help her change the tyre and was leaning into her boot when the lorry struck his patrol car, which was displaying its emergency lights.
Mrs Burgess suffered a glancing blow which resulted in minor injuries but the judge was told she also suffered severe psychological problems following the crash.
Judge Wolstenholme said to Abernethy: “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.”
He said it would have been “obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous”.
As well as the prison sentence, Abernethy was banned from driving for three years and ordered to take an extended test on his release.
Pc Goodlad, from Goole, East Yorkshire, had been an officer with West Yorkshire Police for 10 years.
He left a widow, Helen, and a 15-year-old son, Ben, from a previous marriage.
Today, in a statement read outside court by Detective Chief Inspector Simon Atkinson, Mrs Goodlad said: “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.
“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. Mark was the perfect husband, father, son, friend and colleague.
“He was highly respected at work and adored at home.
“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.”
Mrs Goodlad said: “No matter what the outcome today, the fact remains that Mark is gone.
“I have 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.”
The court heard Pc Goodlad was also a carer for his disabled father, Barry.
Abernethy sat in the dock wearing a white t-shirt and flanked by a security guard.
Mr Atkinson said: “Mark was a well-liked and highly-respected officer who had stopped to help a member of the public at the roadside when this tragic incident occurred.
“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.
“Policing is a dangerous profession but the police force is also a family and I know friends and colleagues have rallied round over this last 12 months to provide help and support for Helen and Mark’s son Ben.
“Our thoughts now remain with them at this difficult time.”
West Yorkshire’s temporary chief constable John Parkinson said: “Mark’s death was a tragic loss to the force.
“He was simply helping a member of the public at their time of need, which is what officers and staff do every day.
“Recognising his death was caused through the dangerous driving of Mr Abernethy, the conviction and sentence will now help to bring some closure to his wife and family.”