Nurse was 'preoccupied' when she ran down and killed grandfather

Nurse who was ‘preoccupied’ and upset as she drove home tragically killed grandfather when her car mounted a kerb and hit him while he was trimming hedge outside home

  • Gary Lightoller, 66, died after being mown down by nurse Joanne Robinson 

A nurse who ran down and killed a retired dock worker as he trimmed his front hedge was ‘preoccupied’ and upset following a bad day at work.

Joanne Robinson had attended a ‘distressing’ assessment of a man suffering from multiple sclerosis and had a ‘momentary lapse of concentration’ when she drove into grandad Gary Lightoller, 66, from behind.

The force of the collision threw him into the air and caused him to land heavily on a brick pillar – but the dad-of-two stood no chance of jumping out the way because he did not even see the car, Hull Crown Court was told.

Despite the efforts of passers-by and paramedics, Mr Lightoller died soon afterwards following the collision on the A165 Ganstead Lane at Bilton, Yorkshire on June 27 last year.

Robinson, 56, admitted causing death by dangerous driving – and said in a letter to his family: ‘There will never be enough words to express how truly sorry I am.’

Gary Lightholler died after he was driven into from behind while trimming his garden hedge

Joanne Robinson admitted causing death by dangerous driving, writing in a letter to Mr Lightoller’s family: ‘There will never be enough words to express how truly sorry I am’

A nurse who was ‘preoccupied’ and upset as she drove home tragically killed a retired docks foreman when her car suddenly mounted a kerb and hit him while he was trimming the front hedge outside his house.

Joanne Robinson had been to a ‘distressing’ assessment on a man suffering from multiple sclerosis at a care home. She had a ‘momentary lapse of concentration’ on the way back that led to her car hitting the 66-year-old grandfather from behind.

The force of the collision knocked him off his feet and threw him into the air, causing him to land heavily on a brick pillar. 

The popular father-of-two had no chance of taking evasive action because he did not even see the vehicle and he died soon afterwards, despite the efforts of passers-by and paramedics, Hull Crown Court heard.

Robinson, 56, of Rosedale Avenue, east Hull, admitted causing the death of Gary Lightoller by dangerous driving on the A165 Ganstead Lane at Bilton on June 27 last year.

Robert Stevenson, prosecuting, said Mr Lightoller had two adult daughters and four grandchildren. He was trimming the front hedge of his home that afternoon and he had walked on to the footpath just along from his driveway.

Robinson was returning from Bridlington and was driving her Hyundai south along Ganstead Lane towards Hull on a dry, sunny day. 

She had been at work as a multiple sclerosis nurse and visited a residential and dementia home in Bridlington to meet a seriously ill man for a pre-arranged assessment.

On the way back, she drove at one point at just over 30mph in a 60mph area. A taxi driver who saw her said he could not see any reason for her doing this. 

He overtook her and headed through Coniston and Ganstead, about half a mile before the site of the accident. Robinson caught him up despite driving slowly earlier. The speed limit outside Mr Lightoller’s home was 30mph. 

‘There is a sweeping right-hand bend,’ said Mr Stevenson. ‘At the edge of the road is a mixture of raised and dropped kerbs at the point of the driveways, with boundary walls and hedges bordering the residential properties.’

Mr Lightoller had a hedge trimmer with him when Robinson’s car mounted the kerb. She tried to control the car and bring it back on to the road, steering to the right and to the left, but the car hit Mr Lightoller.

Robinson looked ‘shellshocked’ and later said: ‘He just came out of nowhere.. It happened so quick.’ She was screaming hysterically and said: ‘What have I done?’ She said that she should have slammed on her brakes.

‘She and the car in front were travelling at around 30mph,’ said Mr Stevenson. Paramedics were on the scene quickly, but Mr Lightoller died at the scene at 4.56pm.

The A165 Ganstead Lane near Hull, where the horrifying incident occured

There were no defects on Robinson’s car. She passed an eye test, had a clean driving licence, was not speeding, had not been drinking nor using drugs, had not been using her phone and had no previous convictions.

‘She failed to negotiate the curvature of the road and mounted the pavement,’ said Mr Stevenson. ‘As she approached, her vehicle appeared to be under control and driving normally. She said that she did not see Mr Lightoller.

‘She said that she did not know what happened and did not know if she had, what she described as, a ‘moment’ or a ‘lapse’. She did not think that, at the time, she needed to pull over but accepted that it was possible that her mind was elsewhere or she was distracted. She was very upset. She accepted that it was her fault.’

Mr Lightoller’s wife, Patricia, said in a family statement that her husband left school at 16, did various jobs until he was 19 and worked as a foreman at Hull Docks until retiring at the age of 65 in December 2021. 

He was ‘really popular’ among friends and family and had a younger brother Mark, two daughters, Emma and Katie, and four grandchildren, two boys and two girls, Madison, Oscar, Lilly and Bobby.

He was a ‘doting grandad’ and all four grandchildren ‘worshipped the ground he walked upon’. He loved having free time to spend with his family and grandchildren. 

She added that he went swimming every day, loved riding and modifying Lambretta scooters and had been ‘looking forward to travelling the world’ with his wife in his retirement, after saving up for the trips.

Mr Lightoller’s daughter, Emma, said: ‘When we lost Gary, we lost everything. Our lives will never be the same.’ The pain of their unbearable loss was there all the time ‘morning, noon and night’ and it was ‘torture’ to pass where he died.

‘All the grandchildren found it very hard,’ she said. For her and her sister, losing their father had been ‘heart wrenching’. He was their safety net. ‘He was the one who could solve anything major in our lives,’ said Emma.

There were at least 500 people at his funeral. ‘Our lives have been destroyed,’ she said. ‘There’s not a minute that goes by that our Dad is not in the forefront of our minds.’

Charlotte Baines, mitigating, said that Robinson had caused ‘devastation’ to the family of Mr Lightoller. ‘She accepts responsibility for her actions,’ said Miss Baines.

‘She does not seek to minimise what happened.’ Robinson had no previous convictions and had expressed genuine remorse and feelings of guilt.

‘She has been traumatised by what happened and by the consequences of her actions and the impact that this has had on Mr Lightoller’s family and her own family and friends,’ said Miss Baines.

‘This does appear to have been, albeit devastating, a momentary lapse of concentration.’

Robinson had written a letter saying: ‘There will never be enough words to express how truly sorry I am.’ She wished she could turn back the clock and bring back Mr Lightoller. What happened would stay with her forever and she could not imagine how the family was feeling. ‘It is on my mind night and day,’ she said.

‘I am truly devastated and ashamed, but my pain that I carry is nothing compared to the loss of a loved one,’ she said. ‘Nothing will ever be the same again.’

Robinson had worked in the caring profession, previously as a nursery nurse and a nanny. She gained a nursing degree at the University of Hull, becoming the first person in her family to go to university.

She had worked most recently as a specialist multiple sclerosis nurse, based at Hull Royal Infirmary three days a week, and in the outpatients department at Spire Hospital, Anlaby, for the other two days. She was currently suspended from those two roles.

Judge Mark Bury told Robinson: ‘Gary Lightoller was trimming his hedge. He needed to pop next door with his strimmer to finish the exercise and he therefore walked out of his driveway out on the pavement, planning on walking into the drive of the next-door property. He did not get that far.

‘He was, by all accounts, a dedicated family man,’ said Judge Bury. ‘He was a man who put a lot of effort into his working life. It’s not surprising that his funeral was very well attended.

‘No sentence this court imposes can restore Gary Lightoller to life. He leaves a great void in many people’s lives.’

Robinson was returning from a ‘distressing’ trip to Bridlington to see a man at a care home. ‘You were simply preoccupied with that visit on your way home,’ said Judge Bury.

‘Mr Lightoller could do nothing. He was walking away from you and did not see you coming and could take no evasive action. Your collision caused him to fall heavily against a brick pillar and he could not survive that.

‘You were remorseful and upset at the scene and you have been ever since. You are a nurse and a caring one, at that.’ A reference described Robinson as the kindest person that they had met. Her boss for her work as a multiple sclerosis nurse described her as a ‘great asset’ and a gentle, patient and kind person.

Robinson was given a 16-month suspended prison sentence and 200 hours’ unpaid work. She was banned from driving for two years and must pass an extended retest before she can drive legally again.

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