London

Van killer avoids jail over London 'runaway van' crash

A delivery driver whose van knocked down and killed two people after he left the handbrake off has been given an eight-month suspended jail sentence.

Larkland May, 52, was delivering a parcel in the City of London in April 2009 when the van was nudged by a car and sent rolling down Pudding Lane.

Dave Smith, 24, and Claudia Kauert, 30, were hit by the van and died.

May, of Edmonton, north London, was found guilty of two counts of causing death by careless driving.

The 52-year-old was also disqualified from driving for three years and ordered to pay £700 in costs, at Southwark Crown Court in central London.

'Words are inadequate'

Passing sentence, Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC, said: "The facts of this case are so unusual, so exceptional, so awful, to make it impossible for anyone to devise a truly just judgment."

Prosecutor Christopher Hehir said it was "an accident waiting to happen".

May, who delivers office stationery, had parked on the road, which has an incline of about 5%, to drop off a parcel at nearby Peninsula House.

But he failed to apply the handbrake and when the driver of another vehicle unwittingly made contact with the van, it rolled away and struck the two pedestrians.

Both were pronounced dead the same day.

Before Friday's sentencing hearing, Mr Smith's mother Denise expressed her grief in a short statement read to the court.

"Words are inadequate. We are devastated, we cannot come to terms with the fact David is gone.

"No-one can give us what we want, and that is David back.

"The agony is that David's life has been taken away and he was just 24."

The judge said: "I regard the statement of Mrs Smith as amongst the most courageous, compassionate and moving documents I have ever heard.

"It makes a truly marvellous tribute to her son."

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