A lorry driver has been convicted of causing the death by dangerous driving of seven-year-old Haydon Abbey pupil Mohammed Ali Ahmed.
Christopher Eric Mallett, 34, of Clyde Place, Bletchley, ploughed into the back of a stationary Toyota RAV4 which had broken down on the A4146 Stoke Hammond Bypass on the afternoon of March 20 last year.
The family of two adults and two children inside was spun off the road through a hedge and wooden fence and into a field as the silver car was crushed by the impact, trapping them inside.
Mohammed Ali Ahmed, who was sitting behind the driver, was thrown forward through the car, suffering fatal head injuries.
None of the car’s four occupants were wearing seat belts at the time of the crash, a collision investigator told the trial.
Mallett had previously pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving but was convicted by a unanimous jury of the more serious offence. He will be sentenced on March 7 at Aylesbury Crown Court.
Investigating officer, PC Sandra Terry of the Serious Collision Investigation Unit, said: “I am pleased that the jury in this case found Mallett guilty of one count of causing death by dangerous driving. Mallett had previously pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of causing death by careless driving but this was not accepted by the Crown and therefore a trial ensued.
“I hope Mallett’s conviction will bring some sense of justice to Mohammed Ali Ahmed’s family. Our thoughts are with his family at this extremely distressing time.”
At the trial last week, Ian Hope, prosecuting, had told the jury it had been Mallett’s “failure to observe the road ahead” that led him to slew into the broken down car which was clearly visible to drivers on the clear afternoon - and he himself had spotted from further away before the crash.
The Toyota’s driver, Sajida Parveen, was forced to pull over and wait for help after having engine problems while driving back home to Aylesbury from Costco in Milton Keynes, with her aunt, niece and nephew.
As there was no hard shoulder, just a sloping soft verge, the car came to a halt on the far left-hand side of the slow lane, with the hazard lights on.
Ms Parveen - Mohammed’s aunt - said it “didn’t seem safe” for anyone to get out of the car as traffic raced by at speed, so they remained inside with the youngster on his booster seat, but she did not feel in danger until she spotted the lorry in her rear view mirror.
“I could see a lorry coming up behind us and it did seem to be driving fast,” she said.
“It was really close and I had closed my eyes - the next thing I knew is that the lorry had hit us.
“It felt like we were flying through the air. When I opened my eyes I didn’t know where we were.”
Emergency services raced to the scene, but despite paramedics calling for an air ambulance, they were unable to save young Mohammed, who was declared dead at the roadside at 2.33pm from multiple injuries, including severe head injuries.
Mr Hope told jurors at Aylesbury Crown Court: “Mr Mallett didn’t brake at any point, nor did he attempt to steer around the vehicle in the road.
“It seems he never saw the vehicle again until he drove straight into the back of it, killing one of the occupants. Why was that?
“One of the things he said was that he was ‘in his own little world’ and was thinking about his family and he wasn’t expecting anyone to be there.
“The prosecution says he is a professional heavy goods vehicle driver who can be expected to look at the road ahead of him.
“His driving fell far below the standard expected of a competent and careful driver.”
He added that Mallett would only have needed to swing 70 cms to the right to have missed the stricken car completely.
Mallett had worked for JR Smith Transport Ltd for two years prior to the crash. The company is based in Tring but also has depot in Leighton Buzzard.
Monitoring equipment on his blue lorry - which did not have a trailer attached at the time of the crash - showed he had been driving along the carriageway at 57mph before impact, above the then speed limit for heavy goods vehicles of 50mph. No defects were found with the automatic lorry.
A hands free phone kit in his cab showed a brief outgoing phone call had been made one or two minutes prior to the collision, but no-one had picked up.
Mallett told an officer at the scene: “I was driving along and I thought the car was driving slowly with its hazards on. I didn’t realise it was stopped until it was too late.”
Driver Tom Newton, who had doubled back in his white VW Golf to help after witnessing the crash, was told by Mallett: “I think I must have looked away at the wrong time, blinked or something.”
Danielle Hefferon, who had been driving a black Renault Clio along the opposite carriageway, described the devastation of the car - with crushed doors and a concertinaed roof - and a girl screaming in the back seat.
She added: “I noticed a little boy between the two front seats and he wasn’t moving.”
Mohammed’s headteacher at Haydon Abbey School released a tribute on his family’s behalf, paying tribute to the “hardworking and enthusiastic little boy with a huge passion for learning.”
Judith Ejdowski added: “He was very adventurous and loved to try new things. He was a very happy little boy with an infectious smile and loved to entertain his classmates by telling jokes and stories.”
The 60-year-old front passenger, the driver’s aunt Remmat Begum, also sustained head injuries and spent 11 days recovering in the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.
Mr Hope added: “The prosecution say that something distracted him while travelling that stretch whether it’s because he was in some way daydreaming or whether he was actively doing something else that he’s not told us about, it’s quite clear his mind was not on the road.”