A 75-year-old lorry driver who ploughed into a queue of traffic, killing a married couple, was today jailed for 33 months.
John Leadenham was handed the sentence at Nottingham Crown Court after a jury convicted him of two counts of causing death by dangerous driving following a trial last month.
During the trial at Leicester Crown Court, the court heard Leadenham failed to stop and hit a queue of stationary traffic on the M1 near J24a on October 7, 2008.
One motorist managed to move on to the hard shoulder as he saw Leadenham approaching, but the 44-tonne lorry clipped another car.
It then collided with a silver Peugeot, pushing it underneath a lorry in front, then swerved and eventually stopping 69 metres ahead.
The crash left Paul and Doreen Tomlinson, 66 and 64, from Glen Parva, Leicester, who were in the Peugeot, dead.
Sentencing Leadenham today, Judge David Price said: "Those who drive heavy goods vehicles owe a particular responsibility to other road users because of the nature of the vehicles they drive and because the results of any error can be catastrophic, as they were in this case.
"You were fully aware of the potential harm that could arise out of any collision of your lorry with any other vehicle on the road and you were fully aware of how lethal your fully loaded lorry could be unless you were fully in control of it at all times.
"On the basis of the jury's verdicts, your driving was dangerous and it caused the death of a married couple who will be sorely missed and particularly missed by their children and by their grandchildren."
The judge said although Leadenham had opted for a jury trial and had sometimes appeared to show little remorse, he accepted he was remorseful.
He said he took into account his age, and his previous good record, as well as the fact he had been driving for 50 years with a relatively good driving record.
But he said Leadenham had ample time to observe the hazard lights and brake lights ahead, and to come to a stop without hitting any other car.
He sentenced him to 33 months in prison, and disqualified him from driving for five years.
During the trial, the court heard traffic on the M1 southbound had slowed down, coming to a stop, because of an accident ahead.
But prosecutor Jonathan Spicer said analysis of the scene showed Leadenham's lorry only started braking 17 metres before the queue of traffic in front of him, allowing just 3/4 of a second before impact.
His lorry knocked a car in front of him on to the hard shoulder and then hit the Tomlinsons' silver Peugeot, forcing it under a Scania lorry.
Mr Spicer said Leadenham then swerved around the lorry, only coming to a halt 69 metres later.
Today the court heard the 75-year-old, who was 74 at the time, still had no explanation for what happened.
David Fish QC, mitigating, said he may have nodded off or may have been thinking about his daughter - who had recently lost a battle against cancer.
He told the court: "The defendant had been a heavy goods vehicle driver for about 50 years at the time of this incident.
"He had worked beyond his 65th birthday for personal and family reasons.
"His daughter in Ireland was suffering at the time from cancer and her dying wish was to have the garden landscaped with a pond, which the defendant paid for while she was still alive and he carried on working in order to finance the project."
Mr Fish said just three days before the crash, a memorial fly fishing day had been held for Leadenham's late daughter - who had been a keen fly fisherwoman.
He said: "He cannot to this day remember or explain the circumstances of the crash or why it was that his concentration deserted him.
"It may be that either he fell asleep behind the wheel or alternatively that his mind was elsewhere, thinking about his daughter."
The court heard Leadenham had one ticket for driving 48mph in a 40mph limit in June 2007 but otherwise had a clean record.
Mr Fish told the judge Leadenham had not driven a lorry since the day of the crash but had been given a job at the company's depot, where he worked until he was made redundant in December.
He said he now cared for his elderly, disabled wife in Grantham.
He described him as a person of "real quality" and said the case was not only a tragedy for the Tomlinson family, but also for Leadenham's own family.Reuse content