Taunton Courier 09 Sep 1933 Fatal Accident Sequel Barrington Man's Death Mr George Henry MORRIS

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Taunton Courier. Bristol and Exeter Journal, and Western Advertiser Wednesday 06 Sep 1933

Page 3 Column 2 & 3





The Ilminster Petty Sessional Court was occupied for nearly five hours on Thursday in hearing a case in which Francis Wm. Charles WELDON (20), cadet, of Midelney Place, Curry Rivel, was summoned for driving a motor-car in a manner dangerous to the public at Ile Brewers on August 1st, and, alternatively, with driving without due care and attention.

Mr. Frederick PROCTOR, of Messrs. C. F. Saunders & Proctor, Crewkerne, prosecuted for the police, and Mr. J. D. CASSWELL, barrister-at-law (instructed by Messrs. Dodson & Pulman, Taunton), was for the defendant, who pleaded not guilty.

The magistrates were: Messrs. H. H. SHEPHERD (chairman), F. T. ADAMS, W. PETERS, and Mrs. Robt. BLAKE, M.B.E.

The prosecution was a sequel to an accident as a result of which a Barrington man was killed.


Outlinging <sic> the facts Mr. PROCTOR said that August 1st, shortly before 5 p.m., defendant was driving a 24 h.p. Buick motor-car from Puckington to Curry Rivel. He had been to Lyme Regis and was returning home. From the Westport Inn, on the Puckington-Curry Rivel road, which was a straight road, the defendant had a clear view of 330 yards. Tar-spraying operations were in progress. On the offside of the road were a steam-roller, a lorry, and a tar-pot, one behind the other. The width of the road was 20 feet. The amount of clear road which the defendant had on passing the roller, lorry, and tar-pot, was 11 feet. His car measured 5ft. 7½ins., so that he had a width of over 5 feet to spare. About a mile towards Ilminster, there was a large notice on the near side of the road saying that tar-spraying was in progress. Then 250 to 300 yards from the scene of the accident was a further notice.


Describing the accident, Mr. PROCTOR said that after passing the roller, a part of the car touched the spade of one of the men, who were lifting grit out of the lorry. The car swerved, and, standing by the head of the horse that was attached to the tar-pot, was a man called George Henry MORRIS. Apparently the middle of the radiator of the car caught MORRIS and carried him approximately 45ft. when the car pulled up. The man was picked up dead.

The submission of the prosecution was that the defendant was driving at a dangerous speed, which, they alleged also, was the cause of the unfortunate fatality. At an inquest at Barrington on August 11th, the verdict of the jury was that MORRIS met his death accidentally; they found that WELDON drove the car negligently, but that such negligence was not gross or criminal.

Mr. CASSWELL: That has noting to do with this Court, has it?

Mr. PROCTOR: I quite agree.

Concluding his statement, Mr. PROCTOR mentioned that the defendant was following another car, which was being driven by his mother. She got past the obstruction all right, and there was apparently no reason why the defendant should not have done so.


P.S. MORRIS said he was called to the scene of the accident. He saw the body lying on the near-side of the car and practically level with the front wheel. He ascertained that life had been pronounced extinct by a doctor. Witness interviewed defendant, who made a statement, in which he said he was driving his father's car from Lyme Regis to Curry Rivel. Arriving at the Westport cross-roads, he was following another car, which slowed up because a number of men were working in the roadway with a steam-roller and tar-pot. “I was about ten yards behind the first car, and as the car passed the men stood at the side.” the statement proceeded. “I started to pass. All the men stood still, with the exception of one, who came from behind the tar-pot. He walked straight out into my track. I swerved to my left, and he ran the same way, with the result that I him him with the centre of my car radiator. At the time I him him he was running, and he went some few paces in the direction I was going before he fell. I stopped my car practically on a level with the spot at the side of the road where he fell. I got out to see if I could render assistance, and sent for the doctor and police. This car in front of me to which I refer was driven by my mother.”


Cyril M. QUAYLE, surveyor to the Langport Rural District Council, who prepared a plan of the road showing the positions of tar-pot, roller, &c., said there was ample room for the defendant's car to have passed the stationary objects. The length of the skid-marks was approximately 36 feet to the back of the car from their commencement. From the horse's head to the line of the commencement of the skid-marks was about eight feet.

Cross-examined, witness said as far as he could see the marks started at the same spot. The marks were quite definite, and he would say that the wheels would have to be locked to cause them. He would not like to say that at the same time there was not a slight skid.

Charles MEAD, of Puckington, an employee of the Langport Rural District Council, who was working at the scene of the accident, said he saw a lady driving a motor-car along the road at a “fair speed.” He then saw another car coming “a lot too fast.” and stepped on to the grass verge to let it pass. Witness did not hear any warning given. He did not see the accident, but saw MORRIS lying in the roadway after the collision.

Answering Mr. CASSWELL, witness said that no flag-man was on duty regulating the traffic on the afternoon in question.


Phillip Alfred Edward STONE, of Highbridge, the driver of the steam roller, said the first car passed the roller at a fast rate, giving no warning. The second car, driven by defendant, was travelling very fast and also gave no warning of approach. “Just opposite the roller the car seemed to wobble from left to right, and then went straight across the road to the Westport Inn. I heard an impact, and, on jumping out of the roller, I saw that the red flag was down, and that the deceased was lying on the road. I approached WELDON and told him that I considered he was driving too fast. He replied. 'No, I was only keeping my mother in line.'”

Frank DADE, of Puckington, a roadman, said he was working behind the lorry, which was behind the tar pot and in front of the steam roller. He was flinging out the chippings on the tar, and, when the defendant's car went by, it touched his shovel. Then he heard a noise, and saw MORRIS lying on the ground. MORRIS was at the horse's head before the car touched witness's shovel.

Edwin James MORRIS, of 14, Council Houses, Barrington, brother of the deceased, who was also working behind the lorry, said he saw his brother a minute before the accident at the horse's head. His brother was always in charge of the tar pot, and he had no reason to leave it except at meal times. He had to lead the horse forward every minute or two. He did not think the horse moved when his brother was struck. He head no horn sounded by either car.


Stephen HULL, of Hambridge, another member of the gang, said the first car travelled at a normal speed and the second one appeared to go faster. It passed him and he heard a noise, which he thought was the applying of brakes. Then he saw the car, swerve to the left, and deceased was thrown from the front of the car. He did not hear a horn sounded from either car. The defendant's car did not appear to slow up at all on approaching the gang, as cars usually did.

George Thomas GLOVER, bricklayer, of Westport, said he was standing on the grass verge watching the men working. Defendant's car, when passing the steam roller, swerved to the left, then to the right, and to the left again before the impact.

He ran to MORRIS, and jumped over the notice-board. He did not know whether he knocked down the flag: he might have. He saw MORRIS at the horse's head after the first car passed. The cars had a clear run past the tar-pot, and did not slow down.

Answering Mr. CASSWELL, witness said it was his idea that the car struck MORRIS while he was at the horse's head.

Mr. CASSWELL: How is it, then, it did not strike the shafts? - I suppose the wings of the car were lower than the shafts.

Mr. CASSWELL: Then, surely, it would have struck the horse. - Witness did not reply.

P.S. MORRIS, re-called, described the injuries sustained by deceased. These were of an extensive nature, and, on the left side of the chest, the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh ribs were broken on a straight line. These fractures had been caused by a direct blow.

This concluded the evidence for the prosecution.



The first witness for the defence was Mrs. Muriel S. HERRING COOPER, wife of Col. W. W. HERRING COOPER, and mother of the defendant, who said she had come from Lyme Regis before the accident. He son, she said, was following her Standard Nine car in the Buick car. When she approached the gang of workmen they were scattered about, and she slowed down and hooted. All the men cleared off the road, some to the left and some to the right. The road was clear, and she “changed down,” being then travelling about 18 miles per hour. As she passed she saw one man stoop and pick something off the road.

Answering Mr. PROCTOR, the witness said she could not remember seeing a man at the horse's head.

Defendant, in the witness-box, said the reason why he followed close behind his mother's car was so that he might be at hand in case of emergency. He saw the steam-roller clearly, and, when his mother slowed down, he followed suit. It was not correct that his car was travelling at a faster speed.

WELDON continued: “When I was about five or six yards from the tar-pot a man walked out into the middle of the road. Directly I saw him I swerved to the left to avoid him, and practically at the same moment he started to run across diagonally in front of me. I applied my brakes to try and avoid hitting him, but the centre of the radiator struck him.”

Mr. CASSWELL: Is it true that he was standing at the head of his horse? - No. He was standing in the middle of the untarred part of the road.

Was there anything you could have done to avoid hitting him? - No: he was too close.

In reply to Mr. PROCTOR, defendant said that the Buick car was about seven years old, and the maximum speed of which it was now capable was about 45 miles per hour. Defendant did not know his speed, not having looked at the speedometer, but he had reduced his ordinary touring speed considerably. He was not travelling faster than his mother. Deceased came out only four or five yards in front of the car, giving him no chance to avoid a collision.

Lieut.-Colonel William Weldon HERRING COOPER, step-father of the defendant, said that the witness GLOVER told him after the accident: “I do not know whether MORRIS came away from the horse's head. I could not see, as the car was between me and him.” There was no sign of fresh tar on the front wheels of the Buick car.

James Edward MARSDEN, automobile engineer, of Bristol said he examined the defendant's car after the accident and the damage to the radiator indicated that the object struck was a moving one.


Addressing the Bench, Mr. CASSWELL said the case was a very serious one for his client, and, if the magistrates thought it necessary to convict, there was no doubt that his Army career would be at an end. He submitted there was not sufficient evidence to support either of the charges, although he agreed the case was one which should be investigated and one which the police were perfectly justified in bringing forward.

The magistrates retired, and when they returned after 30 minutes, the Chairman (Mr. H. H. SHEPHERD) said they were of opinion that the case of dangerous driving was not made out, and it would be dismissed. They convicted on the offence of driving without due care and attention.

Inspector DREDGE intimated that nothing previously was known against the defendant.

He was fined £15 and ordered to pay the costs of the prosecution, amounting to £6 16s 4d.

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