Man guilty over pair's rolling van deaths in London

A delivery driver has been found guilty of causing the deaths of two people who were knocked down when his van rolled down a slope in the City of London.

Southwark Crown Court heard it was an "accident waiting to happen" when Larkland May, 52, parked and failed to put the handbrake on in April 2009.

Dave Smith, 24, and Claudia Kauert, 30, were hit when the van was nudged by a car and sent rolling down Pudding Lane.

May was found guilty of two counts of causing death by careless driving.

Prosecutor Christopher Hehir said when May, from Edmonton, north London, parked the Mercedes Sprinter van at about 1315 BST on 24 April he did not put the handbrake on.

"The application of only a small amount of force would have been enough to set it rolling down the road," he said.

"It was an accident waiting to happen."

Travelling at 12mph, it caught the pair unawares and they were pinned between the three-tonne van, a wall and the ground.

Image caption Dave Smith had only recently returned from travelling the world

Although a crowd of passers-by managed to push the van off them, both had suffered severe internal injuries and died shortly afterwards.

May had been working for stationery company Lyreco for almost a year and was regarded as a good employee, Mr Hehir said.

When he parked up to make a delivery to nearby Peninsula House he partially blocked the narrow junction into Monument Street.

The van was parked on an incline of about 5% and, contravening the Highway Code, May failed to leave it in first gear and did not leave the wheels turned towards the kerb.

Mr Hehir said: "In these circumstances it's vitally important your vehicle's handbrake is properly applied. That's simple common sense which would be obvious to any competent and careful driver.

"Disaster did strike only a short time after he left his vehicle."

When accidentally knocked by a car driven by a BBC cameraman, the van was sent rolling along Pudding Lane and into Mr Smith and Ms Kauert.

During the trial May told the jury he always applied his handbrake before turning off the engine.

He described his dismay when he came out of the office block to find his van had rolled down.

"I couldn't believe what I was seeing."

He added: "On that day three sets of families were devastated."

Earlier in the trial Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC directed the jury to return not guilty verdicts on two counts of manslaughter.

May will be sentenced on 1 October.

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