Driver tells inquest he thought he had run over an animal

Published date: 21 March 2014 |
Published by: Kirstie Dolphin 
Read more articles by Kirstie Dolphin  Email reporter


A DRINK-driver who ran over a friend on his way home from a drinking session thought he had hit an animal or a bird, an inquest heard.

Pedestrian Stefan Bowdley, 31, died instantly of “catastrophic injuries” after he was ran over by a friend after a night out.

But driver Brian Eccles, 33, told a coroner yesterday: “I thought I must have hit a sheep or badger or something.”

Farmer Mr Bowdley, from Pontystllod, Llandegla, had multiple injuries when he was struck by his friend’s Honda CR-V at 11pm on January 30 after enjoying drinks at The Plough Inn in the village.

As Mr Eccles drove home, the Ruthin inquest heard, he signalled to turn right into the A525 junction to Llandegla. He dipped his headlights to allow an approaching car to pass and then turned.

Solicitor Andrew Greenwood, for Mr Bowdley’s family, questioned if he put his headlights back on full beam but Mr Eccles could not remember.

“I turned into the junction and there was a sudden impact,” said Mr Eccles. “It shook me up.

“I got out the car, looked at the front, noticed the headlamp had broken and I looked around and got back in the car and drove home.

“I thought I must have hit a sheep or badger or something.

“I went home and described what happened to my partner. I was shaking like a leaf and didn’t know what happened.

“She rang the police and gave me two or three tumblers of Jack Daniels to calm me down.”

Mr Greenwood asked Mr Eccles why would his partner, Sarah White, ring the police if he thought he had hit a sheep.

Mr Eccles replied: “I am done answering this question.”

He also said he did not notice the windscreen had been damaged and his wing mirror had been broken off.

Mr Eccles, also of Llandegla, was arrested on January 30 on suspicion of causing Mr Bowdley’s death by dangerous driving, driving with excess alcohol and failing to stop after an accident.

These charges were later dropped on the grounds of insufficient evidence for convictions. Mr Eccles failed to give an official breath test, having failed to blow into the device correctly numerous times, but was found to have 109 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood – before drinking more alcohol after the accident – the legal driving limit being 80 milligrammes.

He was convicted at Prestatyn Magistrates Court on September 9 of failing to provide a specimen of breath and sentenced to 15 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, banned from driving for 13 months and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.

North Wales East and Central coroner John Gittins was told Mr Bowdley had been drinking with friends on the night of his death and decided to walk home.

Plough Inn licensee Keith Wilson, who had known him for four years, said: “He was larger than life, one of the boys. He could really drink but on that day he was controlling his alcohol level. He had about four or five pints on that night.

“Stef was leaving as the pub was closing. I asked if he was not going out to Wrexham as they would normally, but he said he had had enough and was going home.

“I asked if he had a ‘high vis’ jacket as he was dressed in dark clothes. That was the last conversation I had with him.”

Plough Inn bar staff Max Twist and Bethan Griffiths told the inquest they served Mr Eccles eight pints in total that evening, but Mr Eccles said he had four pints of Guinness in The Plough Inn and one-and-a-half at The Wee Three Loggerheads where he worked as head chef.

Consultant pathologist Dr Brian Rodgers said: “I can tell you Mr Bowdley did not suffer. He did not know anything about this. He was struck from behind and died instantaneously.

“What injuries he did have were catastrophic.

“He was catapulted off the vehicle into the [Give Way] road sign.

“Was he intoxicated? Probably not. I do not expect him to be staggering around the road.

Senior forensic investigator Colin Dobbins said: “Mr Bowdley had put himself in a dangerous position walking on that road in dark clothing.

“The collision may have been avoidable on both of their parts but there was certainly time and distance to appreciate the collision was with a pedestrian. In my view it would be preposterous to say it was a sheep or he [Mr Eccles] even said an owl in questioning.”

Mr Gittins reached a narrative conclusion and said: “Stefan James Bowdley was struck from the rear by a motor vehicle whose driver it is more likely than not was over the prescribed legal alcohol limit for driving at that time.

“As a result of this collision Mr Bowdley sustained immediately unsurvivable multiple injuries.”

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