Driver acquitted of causing deaths of Glenrothes couple
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Liam McWatt,24, left the dock after the jury returned its not proven verdict to the allegation that he was criminally responsible for the deaths of Harry and Shirley Taggerty.
McWatt, of Leslie Mains, Leslie, spent the past week standing trial at for the alleged offence which took place on July 13 2019 on the A911 road in his home town. He believed he blacked out in the moments before his car collided with the couple and wasn’t guilty of the charge brought to court by the Crown.
Relatives of Mr and Mrs Taggerty wept in the public benches as the jury returned their verdict at the High Court in Edinburgh.
The jurors heard that McWatt was the driver and sole occupant of a Ford Fiesta which was travelling west bound on the A911. The car struck Mr Taggerty, 61, and his 58-year old wife. McWatt provided a negative breath specimen, and no defects were found on his vehicle which could cause or contribute to the collision.
The court also heard PC Joseph Archer speak of the “very tragic and traumatic” moment he saw McWatt’s car mount a pavement and strike the couple.
The officer told the court of how he and his colleague were patrolling in the town when he noticed McWatt’s car on the other side of the road. He told prosecutor Alan Cameron KC that he stopped the van after seeing the pedestrians being struck and went down an embankment by the side of the road at the time.
He said he saw Mr and Mrs Taggerty lying on the ground and the car was overturned. The court also heard that McWatt said ‘I don’t know what happened. I must have blacked out’ at the scene.
Eyewitness Lee Tindall,46, who has since died, gave a statement to the police shortly after the incident. It was read in court.
Mr Tindall told the officers : “As the car travelled down the pavement, I estimate it was doing around 60 miles per hour. Further down, I could see a man and a woman walking down the pavement towards Glenrothes town centre.
“I looked down and could see the woman was laughing and, as she did so, she put her head down.I could see the car was careering down the pavement at speed towards the couple and I could see they hadn’t seen it coming towards them.
“The male pedestrian…. grabbed the female’s hand… in an attempt to pull her out of the way but didn’t manage to do so. The vehicle struck both pedestrians throwing them approximately 25 feet into the air whilst they were still holding hands.”
Prosecutors claimed that McWatt drove whilst using a mobile phone, at excessive speed and entered the opposing carriageway whilst it was “unsafe to do.”
Prosecutors said he then drove into the path of oncoming traffic which Giving evidence, McWatt said in the days before the collision he had been feeling unwell and had been sent home early from his bank job because his manager thought he looked “terrible.”
He also told the court that he had gone out in his car to have a chat with his friend and to get cash for a family holiday. He said he couldn’t remember what happened in the moments leading up to the collision.
Defence advocate Michael Meehan KC asked him what he could remember and, McWatt replied: “Waking up upside down in my car with my seatbelt on. I didn’t know what had happened.”
He suffered swelling to his jaw and cuts to his head and forearm. He said he mentioned ‘blacking out’ to police officers at the scene.
Speaking about what happened after he was told that two people had died, McWatt said: “I couldn’t believe it. I was distraught.”
On Thursday, Mr Meehan told jurors that the evidence showed that his client hadn’t been driving dangerously and urged them to acquit him.
Jurors took less than two hours to return their verdict.
Lord Scott paid tribute to members of Mr and Mrs Taggerty’s family who were present in court: “I am grateful to you for the way you have conducted yourselves for what must have been a very difficult time.”