US dustman hears fate over UK couple's deaths

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The Independent US

An epileptic who had a fit at the wheel of a New York dustbin lorry and crashed into a British couple is due to be sentenced for their murder today.

Jackie Timmins, 47, and Andrew Hardie, 48, of Yeovil, Somerset, died instantly when they were hit by the truck driven by Auvryn Scarlett.

Scarlett, 54, had stopped taking drugs to control his epilepsy and failed to tell his employer about the condition, prosecutors said.

Last month, a jury at Manhattan Supreme Court found Scarlett guilty of two counts of murder in the second degree and one count of assault in the first degree relating to a third pedestrian who survived.

They rejected lesser charges of manslaughter.

Although slated for today, sentencing could be delayed as Scarlett's defence lawyer said yesterday that he was seeking an adjournment.

Ms Timmins and Mr Hardie died in February 2008 as they were enjoying a romantic city break.

Scarlett was driving his truck when it mounted a kerb near Madison Square Garden and ran the couple down.

Prosecutors argued that in not taking his epilepsy medication Scarlett knew he was at risk of seizure while at the wheel.

Summing up the prosecution case, deputy district attorney Christopher Ryan said: "Times Square is in the middle of this defendant's route and he drove it eight hours a day knowing that at any time he could have a seizure.

"The idea that only two people were killed when that truck rolled up on the sidewalk is bordering on miraculous.

"But it is certainly of no consolation to the Timmins or the Hardie family.

"To put yourself behind the wheel knowing that could happen is depraved. It is a conscious disregard for the safety of everybody else on the street.

"It is the equivalent of Russian roulette, but the gun isn't pointed at him (the defendant), but pointed towards the people in the street.

"It would take a depraved individual to engage in that."

But Scarlett's defence lawyer, Michael Biniakewitz, said his client was not a bad or evil man, just one who was involved in a tragic accident.

"He was no Attila the Hun, he was no monster," he told the court.

It took jurors just three hours to return a guilty verdict.

Under American law, they had to find that Scarlett behaved with "depraved indifference to human life" and "recklessly engaged in conduct that produced a great risk of death", in order to find him guilty of murder, Judge Richard Carruthers said.

He is likely to face a sentence of 15 years to life imprisonment.

Mr Biniakewitz has indicated that Scarlett would appeal.