Important fatal crash witnesses never came forward

Two vital witnesses who may have seen the accident in which 47-year-old motorcyclist Tessa Tui Conrad was killed were missing at the trial of the man who was today acquitted of causing her death.

In spite of police appeals for witnesses, the two drivers had never come forward, said Judge David Ruth as he delivered his verdict in the judge-alone trial in the Christchurch District Court.

The judge said he agreed with the submission of defence counsel Phil Shamy, that Mrs Conrad had died in a “serious, tragic accident” but there was an absence of evidence to establish to the required standard that David Brian Ferrand had caused her death by careless driving.

Ferrand, a 54-year-old professional man, had denied the charge and was found not guilty at the end of the trial, in which witnesses to the April 29, 2016, crash had given evidence as well as road safety experts.

The family of the mother-of-four were present as the three-day trial ended, and Judge Ruth expressed his condolences to them.

He said: “My finding is not an indication that I blame the motorcyclist for what happened here. The court has to operate on evidence and has a duty to make sure that any findings, particularly of guilt, are made on the basis of the best quality evidence possible, and where there is clear evidence of carelessness.”

The police alleged that Mr Ferrand collided with the motorcycle as he made a turn at the Pound Road-Ryans Road intersection near Christchurch Airport.

But witnesses did not agree on the vehicles that were present and Judge Ruth said he regarded some of the witnesses as “honest, but unreliable”. The drivers of two vehicles described by witnesses — said to be a truck and a four-wheel drive — had never come forward.

One witness described the motorcycle travelling at an unsafe distance behind a truck as they approached the intersection. She had noticed the motorcycle earlier because of a manoeuvre it had carried out at an earlier intersection.

Judge Ruth ruled that the prosecution had not established that Mr Ferrand’s driving had fallen below the standard of care required of a reasonable and prudent driver.

He said: “I must not assume that because a life has been lost, the court must hold somebody accountable. That is not the business of the court.”

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