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Desreen Brooks death trial: Driver, 83, confused brake and accelerator in fatal crash, court hears

PUBLISHED: 18:40 02 December 2014 | UPDATED: 20:02 02 December 2014

Desreen Brooks and her husband Ben Dutton

Desreen Brooks and her husband Ben Dutton

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An 83-year-old driver lost control and ploughed into a young mother because he confused the brake and accelerator pedals, a trial heard this week.

Geoffrey Lederman was mistakenly holding down the accelerator as he veered onto the pavement and killed Desreen Brooks, Blackfriars Crown Court was told.

He scraped a pram carrying her two-year-old son Jackson as he struck Ms Brooks, Prosecutor Tom Kark QC said.

Her husband Ben Brooks-Dutton “saw the car careering towards them on the pavement and just managed to steer the pushchair out of the car’s path, but immediately realised it had struck Desreen,” Mr Kark added.

Lederman is accused of causing the death of Ms Brooks, 33, and seriously injuring another woman, Amy Werner, by dangerous driving in November 2012.

Ms Werner, an American student who was 23 at the time, suffered serious injuries which were considered life threatening at the time and left her with no sight in her right eye.

In a move described as “very unusual” by the judge, Lederman has been allowed not to attend his own trial for health reasons.

Judge Peter Clarke QC urged the jury not to “hold his absence against him in any shape or form” as the case opened on Tuesday.

The jury was asked to watch distressing footage of Lederman’s car running onto the pedestrian-packed pavement in West End Lane, West Hampstead.

Lederman’s 1982 Mercedes crossed onto the wrong side of the road before mounting the curb.

The car hit the two women and knocked down a lamppost before crashing into a wall, the court heard.

Mr Kark said: “He lost control of his car because, for a period of just under 20 seconds, he put his foot down on the accelerator instead of the brake.”

The prosecutor said Lederman deliberately steered the car onto the pavement, after failing to notice the pedestrians, because he hoped to stop by hitting the wall. He said it was “reckless” to do so.

Firefighters had to cut Lederman out of the wrecked Mercedes before he was taken to hospital.

Lederman, now 85, had been returning home to Hamilton Terrace, Maida Vale, after playing in a seven-hour bridge tournament on November 10.

Mr Kark said he was travelling at speed – about 54mph – and at no point used the brake.

Lederman had come to a stop near West Hampstead Underground Station shortly before the fatal accident at about 8.30pm.

The prosecutor said witnesses heard loud revving and crunching sounds before the car “screamed” off, as if Lederman had been pressing the accelerator before putting the car into gear.

Mr Kark said: “Whether simply because of his age or any other reason, the fact that he mistook one pedal for another provides him with no defence.”

He claimed Lederman’s lawyers will argue he was suffering a “medical aberration” and therefore was not, in effect, driving the car. However, he said there was no evidence for this.

Lederman denies causing death by dangerous driving and GBH. The trial continues.


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