Motorist was using mobile when she killed cyclist

The court building in Edinburgh
The court building in Edinburgh

A motorist who killed a very experienced road cyclist after using her mobile phone while driving has been jailed.

Julie Watson deleted a record of the call and made a 999 call in a bid to summon emergency services after she collided with Alistair Speed.

The mother-of-two was found guilty of causing the death of Mr Speed (49) on the A91 road between Strathmiglo and Gateside on September 5, in 2013, by driving dangerously.

She was also convicted of attempting to defeat the ends of justice by deleting, or allowing to be deleted, a record of a call placed by her on the same date.

Watson (36) of Junction Road, Kinross, was on bail throughout her trial at the High Court in Edinburgh but after the jury returned unanimous guilty verdicts the judge told her she now had serious convictions.

Lord Kinclaven told her: “In the circumstances I am not satisfied bail should be continued. You will be remanded in custody.”

Sentence was deferred on Watson, a former dental technician, until next month for the preparation of a background report.

Mr Speed, of Canmore Walk, Glenrothes, in Fife, died from severe head injuries suffered during the fatal incident.

He was a long-standing member of Fife Century Road Club and had taken part in his last event the previous day.

Mr Speed’s sister, Mhairi Laffoley (48), said the effect of the incident on her family had been “horrendous”.

She told the court: “My parents died within 12 weeks of the accident.” She added: “It will never be the same. He was everything to us.”

“Alistair started riding his bike on the road as a seven-year-old boy. He started competing as a cyclist from the age of 12,” she said.

“Cycling is a family sport. My son is also a cyclist,” she told the court.

She said her brother was “a very, very competent cyclist”. “He was very steady. He didn’t take risks,” she said.

“I entrusted him to take my son out on his bike from the age of nine and a half,” she said.

She said her brother, who worked as a supervisor with Tesco, had acted as main time-keeper for the club as well as participating in events.

Following the collision passing off-duty firefighters tried to go to the aid of Mr Speed who was left in a large pool of blood.

Watson was driving in a Vauxhall Corsa behind another car driven by her mother. After the incident another driver who stopped spoke to her and she said she did not know how she had hit the cyclist because she had seen her mother indicate to pass him.

She told police that “maybe I misjudged the distance I was giving him”. She said her mobile phone was in the pocket of her jeans and added: “The first time I took the phone out was to phone for an ambulance.”

But evidence was led that a phone call had been made shortly before the 999 call from the device.

Advocate depute Jim Keegan QC said the results of the crash had been “catastrophic”.

The prosecutor said: “The use of a mobile phone, especially calling out, is a conscious, wilful act. The use of a phone when driving, a hand-held phone, is an offence.”

Mr Keegan said there was no need to make a call at the time and that there was no emergency at that point.

The prosecutor told jurors that she had used her phone, paid no attention to the road and crashed into Mr Speed and then tried to cover it up.