Former motorbike champ involved in three road deaths gets his licence back early

James McGowan, who is accused of murder and assault, appeared at Edinburgh High Court. Picture: Ian Georgeson
James McGowan, who is accused of murder and assault, appeared at Edinburgh High Court. Picture: Ian Georgeson

A former motorbike racer with previous convictions for illegal driving was caused “a great deal of inconvenience” when he was given a 10 year motoring ban, a court has heard.

Advocate Robert Frazer told the High Court in Edinburgh on Wednesday that 69-year-old Alan Duffus had to change his daily routine because of the restriction on his ability to drive.

Mr Frazer’s client, a former five time Scottish motorcycling champion, was given the ban in November 2009 after being convicted of dangerous driving.

The incident which led to his conviction resulted in the death of 67-year-old Senga Elder. However, Mr Duffus’s dangerous driving did not directly cause the death of Senga.

It was Mr Duffus’s third illegal driving conviction. In 1980, he was found of causing death by reckless driving after crashing a car in which his 23-year-old woman passenger died.

Three years later, he was in court again when he smashed his motorcycle into car, leading to the death of a 61-year-old mother of four.

He was initially charged with causing Rebecca Knought’s death by reckless driving but was found guilty of careless driving, fined £250 and banned for another three years.

In August 2015, Duffus was convicted of driving without insurance at Dunfermline Sheriff Court. He had been spotted on a motorbike at Knockhill racing circuit in Fife in June 2014. He was given a £300 fine.

On Wednesday, moments before judge Lady Dorrian restored Duffus’s driving licence, Mr Frazer told the court that the driving ban had changed the motorist’s life.

He told the court that he had to rely on receiving lifts from his wife, who ran a bed and breakfast business.

Mr Frazer said: “It has caused him a great deal of inconvenience.”

But Lady Dorrian replied: “That’s what it’s supposed to do Mr Frazer.”

During the trial over Senga’s death, the High Court in Dundee heard how Duffus was arrested after an incident involving 22-year-old Grant Whyte.

It was alleged that Whyte had been racing Duffus, who was at the wheel of a BMW car.

The court heard how Whyte’s Vauxhall Corsa left the road and ploughed into the pensioner, who was walking on a pavement near her home in Auchtermuchty,Fife.

She was sent flying through the air and her body landed in a play park close to a skateboarding ramp.

Six witnesses described seeing the two cars travelling at excessive speeds, bumper to bumper, at various sections of the three-mile stretch of road just before the horror crash.

Whyte, from Cupar, Fife, claimed he was forced to swerve when Duffus’s red BMW braked sharply in front of him as the pair climbed a small hill on the outskirts of Auchtermuchty.

Duffus, of Kinnesswood, Kinross-shire, denied racing Whyte and said he was initially unaware an incident had taken place behind him.

The court was told a woman driver was forced to swerve to avoid Duffus when he crossed the central line on to her side of the road just before the accident.

Motorbike dealer Duffus was found guilty of dangerous driving because of this incident and his excessive speed.

Whyte received a six year prison sentence for his role in the incident.

After the verdicts were read out, the jury of 10 women and five men looked shocked when they heard of Duffus’s previous record.

In 1980, Duffus was fined £2500 and banned from the roads for three years at Cupar Sheriff Court for causing the death of passenger Jacqueline Crombie, 23, by reckless driving the previous year.

He lost control of his Jaguar XJS on the Colinsburgh to Pittenweem road in Fife and flew through the air for 70 feet before smashing into a farm wall. He then fled, leaving Jacqueline dying in the wreckage.

A police officer estimated Duffus’s speed at more than 100 mph.

In August 1983, less than three months after getting his licence back, Duffus smashed his new 863cc bike into a family car on the Cupar to Stirling road.

A passenger in the car, Rebecca Knought, 61, died in hospital later.

Duffus was initially charged with causing her death by reckless driving but was found guilty of careless driving and was fined £250 and banned for another three years.

In 2015, Duffus was found guilty of driving without insurance at the Knockhill circuit after a trial at Dunfermline Sheriff Court.

A charge of driving while disqualified was found not proven as it specified on a road, rather than on a road or public place.

Duffus said he was working for Knockhill and thought he would be covered by the track’s insurance.

Sheriff Charles Macnair fined the former racer, who runs his own motorbike dealership, £300.

He told him: “Although you were driving slowly, accidents can happen. You must have known as a professional involved in motor vehicles that you needed insurance.”

On Wednesday, Mr Frazer told Lady Dorrian that Mr Duffus had completed a 240 hour community payback order.

He had worked for Scottish National Heritage during the CPO and had continued to volunteer with the organisation after completing the order.

Lady Dorrian restored Duffus’s licence because he had served two thirds of his ban and because he had complied with the requirements imposed on him by the court in 2009.

He will have to sit and pass the extended driving test.