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Friday, December 11, 2015
Dad who juggled two jobs to raise children fell asleep at the wheel killing Oxford University professor
A divorced dad who juggled two jobs to raise his three children and pay off mortgage debts crashed his car and killed a renowned professor after falling asleep at the wheel.
Simon Westcarr, 51, had finished his nine-and-a-half hour night-shift in a warehouse and was on his 53-mile journey to start his day-shift at a museum when he collided with a car driven by 67-year-old Oxford University Professor Martin Brasier.
Prosecutor Peter Coombe told Oxford Crown Court that Prof Brasier, renowned for his discovery of the oldest microfossil at 3.4 billion years old, was killed in the collision and his wife, Cecilia, suffered serious injuries which required surgery.
Westcarr was jailed for 32 months for causing death by dangerous driving and 16 months for causing serious injury, to run concurrently.
The court heard how the professor had recently retired from his role as a palaeobiologist and an expert in microfossils.
On December 16 last year the couple’s Volvo was hit by Westcarr’s yellow Audi A4 as they were driving along the A40 near Burford in Oxfordshire as they were on their way to their holiday home in Wales.
Mr Coombe said: "Mrs Brasier recalls seeing the defendant pulling out of his lane and onto the wrong side of the road into their path, and Mr Brasier yelling, 'is that idiot overtaking?'
"Mr Brasier swerved and hit a grass verge and that is her last memory before the collision.”
The court heard that a witness, named in court as Kevin Ridge, was driving behind Westcarr and noticed him making an "extremely gradual and slow veer to the right."
Mr Ridge did not see any brake lights or indicators applied as the defendant's vehicle slowly veered over to the wrong side of the road.
Mr Coombe said: "Mr Ridge's impression was that to drive in this way the driver must have been either asleep or rendered unconscious."
Westcarr drove head on into the Volvo and Mr Brasier was killed by impact wounds to his head and chest.
The court heard that Westcarr had been exhausted after working a lengthy night-shift that ran almost straight into a day-shift at a job in a completely different county.
Hugh Williams, defending, said that Westcarr separated from his wife in 2006 before divorcing in 2008.
He was left to raise his three children, aged 23, 22 and 17 years, and keep up payments of the mortgage that had increased by £70,000.
Westcarr faced further serious financial difficulty when he was made redundant from his job as a human resources consultant at Gloucestershire County Council and was subject to threats that his house would be repossessed.
He eventually secured a job at delivery company DPD but as he only earned minimum wage he took on a human resources job at Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
"He wanted to cut down the number of hours he was working at DPD because of this new job. He was trying to cut it all down when the incident happened.
"He would never have been involved in this collision if he had not been under the pressure of looking after his three sons and holding the household together," Mr Williams said.
Westcarr, of Dancey Road in Churchdown, Gloucestershire, admitted causing death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving in a packed court room yesterday.
Judge Ian Pringle said: "I can understand the financial pressures that you and your family were under at the time. You have brought up your sons well and you are to be praised for that.
"It must have been clear to you when you got in the car that day that you were very tired, especially as you pulled over to get 10 minutes of rest or air not long before the collision occurred.
"You did not even notice a driver behind you honking his horn when he noticed your car was drifting across to the opposite side of the road.
"The collision occurred, as you know, because you fell asleep at the wheel.
"These cases are never easy. It is a tragedy on one side for the family of the victims, and on the other side we have a father with no previous convictions who needs to go to prison."
Members of the Brasier family and the Westcarr family both wept in court as the bespectacled defendant, dressed in smart suit and tie, was taken down.