An 81-year-old former soldier with a ‘zest for life’ was killed instantly after his car hit a stolen lorry that criminals had left blocking a country lane.
Grandfather Gordon Poulton, a former warrant officer in the Dragoon Guards, died after crashing into the lorry in December 2014 on Stainforth Road between the villages of Stainforth and Barnby Dun near Doncaster.
One of the two men responsible for his death - Sheffield man Timothy Green - was jailed for five years at Sheffield Crown Court on Friday for his role in the incident - but Green has refused to identify the other person involved in the incident.
Gordon Stables, prosecuting, said the lorry unit had been stolen from Tata Steel in Scunthorpe between December 9 and 10, 2014, with six trailers taken from a site in Nottingham around the same time.
At 6.45pm on December 14 the stolen lorry cab with one of the stolen trailers attached was blocking both sides of Stainforth Road, an unlit country road with a 60mph limit.
The vehicle was in the middle of the road as it had got stuck reversing out of a yard where it was being kept after Green had arranged its sale.
Mr Stables said the lorry was essentially ‘invisible’ to approaching motorists due to not having working lights on the trailer and Mr Poulton had no time to stop before hitting the stationery vehicle in his Peugeot.
Another vehicle, a Fiat Punto, crashed into the back of Mr Poulton’s vehicle just moments later.
The driver of the Fiat described how she had come through a patch of fog before seeing the rear of the Peugeot and being unable to stop crashing into it.
Mr Stables said the driver had got out of her car and seen Green sat in the lorry. Green, aged 47 and of Springwell Crescent, Beighton, suggested to her that the person in the Peugeot had ‘done a runner’ and he then returned to the yard before calling 999 to get an ambulance for the woman.
When police eventually arrived, Green said the person driving the lorry had ‘walked off towards Stainforth’ and he had only got into the lorry after the first collision.
After refusing to provide a full account of events during three police interviews, Green eventually plead guilty to causing death by dangerous driving on the basis that a ‘third party’ he was unwilling to name had got into difficulties reversing the lorry out of the yard before he was asked to take over.
Green, who was disqualified from driving at the time, said he had got into the driver’s seat to move the lorry but had not made any manoeuvres before the crash occurred.
A statement was read to the court by Mr Poulton’s son Adrian, who had to identify his father’s body two days before Christmas.
He said his father had served in the military for 22 years before setting up his own haulage company.
“He had worked all his life and had just got to the stage where he could enjoy and treat his grandchildren,” he said.
“He had a zest for life. He was not an average 81-year-old. He was very active and physically and mentally fit.
“He was the keystone of our family.”
Adrian said his father had provided great support to all the family through difficult times.
He said: “The loss to every family member, including myself, is difficult to describe in words. He lost his right to share his grandchildren’s life events. His life was completely cut short, he was taken before his time and still had many years of joy and good health to come.”
Green had 27 convictions for 43 offences and appeared in court via video link from prison where he is currently serving an 18-month sentence for fraud.
Ian Goldsack, defending Green, said his client had got into difficulties in recent years having previously run his own haulage firm.
He said Green had started taking drugs to deal with problems in his marriage, leading on him getting involved in a series of criminal activities.
“Drugs are always bad for the wider public and the individual and if anyone wanted an object in how bad they can be, it is probably Mr Green.
“He has lost everything.
“He is really sorry for what he has done.”
Mr Goldsack said Green has recently been attacked in prison ‘as a warning’ not to name the other person involved in the incident and is ‘extremely frightened’ of the consequences of doing so.
Judge Peter Kelson QC said Green’s claims of remorse ‘smack of self-interest’ given his unwillingness to name the other person involved.
Judge Kelson told Green: “You were party to the parking of this vehicle in an incredibly dangerous position. This trailer was simply invisible to approaching traffic.
“It was a death-trap.”
He sentenced Green to four-and-a-half years for causing death by dangerous driving and an additional six months for handling stolen goods.