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Driver's torment after death crash

PUBLISHED: 20:15 04 October 2001 | UPDATED: 10:37 03 March 2010

AN Ipswich motorist today spoke of the torment he has endured since his a momentary lapse of concentration cost the life of a 63-year-old man.

Martin Southgate, 51, a former Brantham parish councilor, was found guilty of careless driving by Ipswich magistrates this week after a lapse of concentration on the A12 earlier this summer saw him plough into German lorry driver Albert Schwoll.

AN Ipswich motorist today spoke of the torment he has endured since his a momentary lapse of concentration cost the life of a 63-year-old man.

Martin Southgate, 51, a former Brantham parish councilor, was found guilty of careless driving by Ipswich magistrates this week after a lapse of concentration on the A12 earlier this summer saw him plough into German lorry driver Albert Schwoll.

He said: "I've ended up seeking psychiatric treatment, I've had such a tough time of it.

"I had 35 years of trouble free motoring. I'm thoroughly upset about it- it was a tragic accident. I'm not a mad driver."

Southgate, 51, of Holyrood Close, admitted careless or inconsiderate driving at South East Suffolk Magistrates Court on Tuesday . He was fined £405 and given six penalty points on his license.

Speaking from his home after the case, he said: "Everybody who has tried to help me has been a brick. The police have been absolutely brilliant.

"We've had a real hard time since that accident. I enjoyed driving. As the magistrate said it was just a lapse. As my solicitor said we all do it but it was catastrophic."

He vowed to attend the inquest of the dead man later this year. "If his family is there, it will be extremely tough, but I shall go.

Fighting back tears, he said: "I couldn't remember it. I blanked. It's one of the brain's functions to protect itself but I'll live with it for the rest of my days. All I can remember is seeing that poor man lying in the road. I absolutely feel terrible about that poor man."

Magistrates did not ban Southgate, described in court as "an experienced driver" who will have to live with the incident for the rest of his life.

David Taylor, prosecuting, told the court that Southgate had been driving his white Ford Mondeo along the Ipswich bound carriageway of the A12 at Copdock at 12.30pm on Monday, June 4.

In what was described as "a momentary lapse of concentration", Southgate drifted towards a lay-by where an articulated lorry was parked.

Lorry driver Albert Schwoll, from Eschweiler in Germany, had pulled into the layby on the A12 moments earlier and had stepped out of his cab to ask directions when the car, driven by Southgate struck him.

Police said at the time of the accident that Mr Schwoll, 63, suffered serious leg and head injuries.

Mr Schwoll died later that day in Ipswich Hospital.

Mr Taylor said that there was no explanation into how Southgate drifted into the layby and struck Mr Schwoll.

In their summing up, magistrates took into account a number of mitigating factors in not banning Southgate.

They cited his early guilty plea, the legal speed of 56mph, which he was driving, and the good working condition of his car.

He was fined £350 fine, with £55 costs.

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