A Euromillions jackpot winner told police he had ‘veered across the road’ as he reached back for a teddy to calm his screaming toddler before a head-on collision that killed a 75-year-old woman, video footage has revealed.
Matthew Topham avoided jail after he admitted causing the death of pensioner Mary Jane Regler on
Footage shows the moment the 31-year-old, who won £45million on the lottery in 2012, told a police officer he took his eyes off the road to retrieve his screaming two-year-old son’s teddy bear.
As he was comforted by a police officer at the scene he said: ‘I’m just gutted about everything. Just a simple mistake to try and help my son and I’ve f***ed up someone’s life.’
Matthew Topham admitted causing the death by careless driving on Christmas Day 2019
The jury accepted Topham’s submissions that his driving was only careless – and found him not guilty of causing death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
He was today handed a 16-week suspended sentence and was made the subject of an electronic tag and curfew. Topham was also banned from driving for 12 months.
In video footage captured on a police officer’s body-worn camera in the moments following the collision, Topham said: ‘We’ve just left the parent-in-laws.
‘I’ve got my two sons in the rear. My youngest has dropped his teddy on the floor. My eldest said “he’s dropped his teddy he wants his teddy” and he started going off so I turned around to get the teddy.
‘I slowed down and when I looked forward I was on the wrong side of the road. There was headlights. I think I braked and pulled to the right to try and get on the verge.
‘I must have veered across the road. I must have because I looked forward and I was head-on to headlights and I tried to get on to the verge.’
As Topham started to tear up the officer reached round for a hug, saying: ‘Hey, it’s alright. I know, it’s s**t. I know.’
Topham said: ‘It’s just a simple mistake to try and help my son and I’ve f***ed up someone’s life.’
Footage shows the moment the 31-year-old, who won £45million on the lottery in 2012, told a police officer he took his eyes off the road to retrieve his screaming two-year-old’s teddy bear
Lincoln Crown Court heard how Topham, who won £45million in 2012, had spent some of his lottery winnings on a collection of cars, a house for his wife’s parents and helping his dad retire
Lincoln Crown Court heard the defendant had been travelling home from visiting his wife’s parents when the crash occurred on Louth Road in North Cockerington, Lincolnshire, at around 5.50pm.
He said he had looked away from the road for ‘a split second’ before veering on to the wrong side of the road in his BMW and colliding with a Ford Fiesta driven by Mrs Regler’s husband Rodney.
Giving evidence in his trial, Topham described his actions as ‘terrible’, but said every time his child let out the ‘piercing’ scream it made him ‘crazy’.
Mrs Regler died from severe chest injuries and Mr Regler suffered serious injuries.
A jury accepted the lottery winner’s submissions that his driving was only careless rather than dangerous.
As he was comforted by a police officer at the scene he said: ‘I’m just gutted about everything. Just a simple mistake to try and help my son and I’ve f***ed up someone’s life’
Judge Catarina Sjolin Knight told Topham he made ‘the wrong decision’ when he took his eyes off the road to pick up his son’s teddy bear.
She said: ‘It was a deliberate decision to continue driving on a dark, winding road.
‘This was an avoidable decision.’
The judge told Topham she accepted he had to ‘carry the burden of taking a life’.
In a victim impact statement read by prosecution barrister Michael Cranmer-Brown, Mr Regler paid tribute to his ‘beloved’ wife, adding: ‘My life has changed forever.’
He said: ‘No matter what happens, nothing can bring my wife back to me.
‘It has ruined my life, but I will not let this dictate my life.
‘I bear the driver no malice but I will never forgive him for what he has done to me and my family.’
In a statement read to the court by Mr Cranmer-Brown, Mrs Regler’s daughter Lesley said ‘heartbroken doesn’t come close’ to describing her feelings after her mother’s death.
Mary Jane Regler, 75, (pictured) died when Topham’s BMW collided with a Ford Fiesta driven by her husband Rodney
She added: ‘I’m just existing now. I have lost the one person in life who loved me with all their heart.’
Mrs Regler’s son David also spoke of his distress through a victim impact statement, describing his mother’s death as ‘very traumatic’.
He said: ‘More than anything, the chance to say goodbye was taken away from me.
‘Christmas will always be a time tinged with sadness.’
Sentencing Topham on Thursday, the judge handed him a 16-week suspended sentence and told him he would be the subject of an electronic tag and curfew.
The defendant, of Swinderby, Lincolnshire, was also banned from driving for 12 months.
Speaking after the sentencing hearing, Detective Inspector Joanna Reeves of Lincolnshire Police’s Serious Collision Investigation Unit said: ‘The circumstances of the crash bring home just how very important it is for drivers to keep full attention on the road ahead.
‘There are distractions both inside and outside of vehicles and while in hindsight the right thing for Matthew Topham to do would have been to find a safe place to pull over.
‘He didn’t do that and he now lives with the consequences.’
Lincoln Crown Court heard how Topham had spent some of his lottery winnings on a collection of cars, a house for his wife’s parents and helping his dad retire.
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