US tourist who turned into the path of motorcyclist cleared of death charges

Barbara Ardell shouted 'Praise the Lord' as she was cleared of causing death by careless driving

AN American tourist who turned into the path of a motorcyclist has been cleared of causing the rider's death by careless driving.

Prison officer Paul Todd, 57, died of chest injuries when his Honda CBR1100XX collided with a rented Skoda Fabia driven by Barbara Ardell in Inverness, Scotland, on July 18 last year.

Ardell, a business consultant from Dunwoody in Georgia, told a jury she checked the road was clear before performing a right-hand turn.

The jury heard from witnesses who suspected Mr Todd had been exceeding the 30mph speed limit when he overtook vehicles approaching a set of traffic lights just before the incident.

Officers from the collision investigation unit estimated the motorcycle had been doing between 31mph and 40mph at the point the bike's wheels locked as the rider braked heavily.

Ardell pleaded not guilty to causing the death of Mr Todd, stating she had travelled to the UK six times before and had experience of driving on the left-hand side of the road in both the UK and Australia.

She said she had already used the junction to get to a guesthouse where she was staying during a trip to England and Scotland.

‘I looked to see if there was anything coming and it was completely clear,' she said. 'So I turned and of course I needed to know where I’m going so I looked to see if there were any pedestrians or a car that had not cleared the intersection.

‘Just out of my peripheral vision I caught a flash and a bang.

‘I turned to my husband and said, “What in heaven’s name was that?”’

Ardell said she later told the police that it was as if something had fallen out of the sky.

‘I sat and said “Oh my God. Oh my God. I was just stunned. Then I realised it was a motorcycle.

‘Eventually I opened the door. I was afraid to get out. I was afraid I would fall over.’

Retired police officer John Hier, a trained collision investigator, said that after revisiting the scene he was confident the motorcycle had completed the overtake and was back on the correct side of the road, and Ardell would have been able to see him.

Jurors took 30 minutes to find Ardell not guilty on November 7 after hearing conflicting opinions from police regarding the accident.

James Allan, a former Central Scotland Police inspector turned independent traffic consultant, said a report put together by his former colleagues was inaccurate.

He told defence counsel Mark Moir: ‘The police reconstruction using an officer on a police bike with its headlight illuminated, wearing a high-vis jacket and white helmet was not an accurate reconstruction. It was seriously flawed.

‘Mr Todd was in an all black outfit, on a black bike and wearing a black helmet, so he would not have easily been seen.’

Barbara Ardell shouted ‘Praise the Lord’ as she was cleared of all charges.

She said: ‘I want to thank God and my family and friends for the comfort and support I have received during this long and difficult ordeal.

‘But I also want to express my deepest sympathy for the family of Mr Todd who have suffered a terrible loss.

‘I have always believed in my innocence and was determined to return from my home in Georgia to prove it. It has been very costly but worth it. The truth has come out at last.'

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