Driver 'not aware of protester's death'

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The driver of the lorry which ran over the animal rights protester Jill Phipps did not know of the accident until a police officer banged on the door of his cab, an inquest jury was told yesterday.

After the accident Stephen Yates told officers that he had not seen Miss Phipps approach his lorry, which was taking a cargo of veal calves into Coventry airport for export to Europe on 1 February.

Mr Yates, 43, who has since been summoned for six offences relating to his lorry, told police that the only woman protester he saw as he drove into the airport tried to chain herself to his 50-ton Scania vehicle as it was moving but was dragged away by police.

Mr Yates, a partner with his brother, Malcolm, in a haulage firm, said: "The only person I saw was the girl. I wasn't doing more than five or six miles per hour - 10 at the most. I don't think anyone expected the protesters to act the way they did. I mean I never felt a thing."

His account of the accident was told to the hearing at Coventry by Inspector John Williams, of West Midlands Police, who said that papers had been submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service, but it was decided not to charge Mr Yates with causing death by dangerous or reckless driving.

Mr Yates was advised by the Coventry coroner, David Sarginson, that he was not obliged to answer questions which may incriminate him in connection with the death of Miss Phipps. He explained that Mr Yates may be advised to ignore certain questions and then outlined the definition of the criminal offence of manslaughter by neglect to the jury.

Mr Yates told the inquest he had delivered 12-15 lorry loads of calves to the site before the accident. He also ignored advice from the coroner and his solicitor, Trevor Cox, and admitted he was the driver who made the one delivery to the airport on the day of the accident. However, he would not answer when asked if he was driving the vehicle which killed Miss Phipps, or say if he saw her prior to the fatal moment.

The case continues.