NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Man guilty over fatal Cuminestown campsite crash

Crash scene Image copyright Newsline
Image caption Andrew MacKay was left trapped under his static caravan after the crash and died at the scene

A man has been found guilty of causing the death of a pensioner by driving dangerously with his girlfriend sitting on his knee.

Nathaniel Cooper was teaching Kylie Johnston how to drive when the couple lost control of his car and crashed into Andrew MacKay's caravan at East Balthangie campsite in July 2013.

Cooper, 30, of Inverbervie, was found guilty following a trial, while Johnston pled guilty to the charge.

Sentence will be passed on both in May.

Cooper was teaching Johnston to drive his Daihatsu Terios 4x4 at the campsite near Turriff on 21 July 2013 when the pair lost control and struck Mr MacKay while crashing into his static caravan.

The 65-year-old was left trapped underneath his holiday home, and later died from chest injuries.

Image copyright Newsline
Image caption Cooper, of Inverbervie, was teaching Johnston how to drive when they crashed

During the trial, the court heard that Johnston, of Stonehaven, was sitting on Cooper's knee when the crash happened at the Cumineston campsite.

The 26-year-old, who is 4ft 11in (1.5m) tall, said she could only reach the pedals when she slid down the seat.

She said she had "never ever driven in my life", and found the experience "scary".

She said she was "relying" on Cooper to control the pedals, and her then-boyfriend grabbed the steering wheel when the car veered too close to the campsite's toilet block.

Image copyright Newsline
Image caption Kylie Johnston said she both she and Cooper were responsible for the crash

The vehicle skidded out of control and collided with Mr MacKay, who had stepped out of his caravan for some fresh air while cooking dinner. His 58-year-old partner Mary Dobbin was left stuck inside the caravan, and Mr MacKay was declared dead at the scene.

Johnston pleaded guilty to her part in the crash in January.

She told the court she accepted responsibility, but insisted that both herself and Cooper were to blame. A jury took just over an hour to find him guilty of causing death by dangerous driving following a five-day trial.

Lord Stewart told the jury at Aberdeen High Court that the case was the first of its kind in the UK. Solicitors researching the case found cases of dogs sitting in driver's laps abroad, but nothing resembling the Cooper trial.

He said: "This has been a difficult case for all involved.

"The word tragedy is rather too frequently used but this case seems to be to be a real tragedy."

Sentence will be passed on 8 May at the High Court in Glasgow.

Image copyright Newsline
Image caption The High Court heard that the case was the first of its kind in the UK

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