Melton widow’s heart-breaking statement read out in court after road death

Margaret Payne pictured with late husband Stuart and their daughter Laura EMN-170822-090122001
Margaret Payne pictured with late husband Stuart and their daughter Laura EMN-170822-090122001

An emotional statement from the widow of popular Melton photographer, Stuart Payne, was read out in court before a judge sentenced a man for causing his death.

Mark Gilbert (56), of Kettering, was convicted unanimously by a jury and handed a nine-month jail sentence suspended for two years and was banned from driving for five years.

Margaret Payne pictured with her late husband, Stuart EMN-170822-090133001

Margaret Payne pictured with her late husband, Stuart EMN-170822-090133001

Prosecutor Justin Wigoder read out the moving words of Mr Payne’s widow, Margaret, during Thursday’s hearing at Leicester Crown Court, where she described having ‘my life torn apart’ and ‘trying to live now with half of me missing’.

Part of her statement read: “My life is so empty without Stuart and the home we both loved so much is so empty and lonely without him there to greet me and put his arms around me.”

Gilbert was riding a Kawasaki ZX motorcycle on the B6047 Dalby Road at Melton on July 20, 2014, when he was in collision near the junction with Sandy Lane with a bicycle being ridden by Mr Payne, who died at the scene from the head injuries he received.

He was 66 and had worked for more than 50 years as a photographer in Melton, including covering the weddings of generations of local families.

Mr Payne was married for 43 years to Margaret, who said after the court case that she was pleased with the verdict.

She told the Melton Times, which published her husband’s wedding photos for many years: “I and my family are very relieved with the guilty verdict and the fact that the trial is finally over.

“It has taken me three long years to get justice for Stuart.”

Prosecutor Mr Wigoder told the court that Mr Payne had been cycling his regular route that morning, in the direction of Melton, and was 50cm away from the verge when he was struck from behind by the motorbike, which was travelling at 48mph and ‘never had a chance’.

Mr Payne had been wearing a helmet and was an experienced cyclist, the hearing was told.

Mr Wigoder added: “The reason for this accident was this defendant taking a bend at speed which reduced his reaction time.

“This led to panicked braking whilst leaning his bike over at a greater angle and then believing the best course of action was to lay the bike down with disastrous consequences, laying his motorbike down to the nearside.”

Gilbert, described as an experienced motorcyclist, did not give evidence in court and wept after the jury convicted him of causing death by careless driving.

He told the police, in a later interview, that he looked down at the road to check his position for a split-second and glanced up.

Gilbert claimed the cyclist was turning his bike into the middle of the road but his version was not consistent with skid marks observed by a police accident investigator.

It was suggested by the prosecution that the defendant may have been glancing back to look for his friend who was following on another motorcycle.

Gilbert was seriously injured in the incident, he has lost the use of his right arm completely and can no longer work as a heating engineer.

His counsel, Sam Mainds, told the court that the defendant ‘felt real sorrow for the family of Mr Payne’, adding: “He knows if he hadn’t been riding his motorbike on that day this tragedy wouldn’t have happened and it’s on his mind every day.

“He was careless for a moment or two on the day - it’s ruined his life as well.”

The court was told that Gilbert sustained multiple fractures and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression as a result of what happened.

Judge Robert Brown said he had decided to suspend the jail sentence because of the life-changing physical and mental injuries the defendant received but added: “You failed to pay specific attention to the road in front of you and your carelessness on that day has cost Mr Payne his life.

“Cyclists are vulnerable on the road and they must be protected.”

The judge told the court: “I know that the deceased’s wife, Mrs Payne, hasn’t been able to complete her grieving whilst this case was been outstanding.

“Due to the injuries to Mr Gilbert, the delay was unavoidable.

“I hope she can now complete her grieving.”

THE COURT STATEMENT FROM MARGARET PAYNE WHICH WAS READ OUT IN COURT:

“The day my wonderful loving husband of 43 years was so tragically killed, my life was torn apart.

We loved each other so much and it is like trying to live with half of me missing.

It has been so difficult to come to terms with this awful tragedy in which my husband’s life was taken.

I have flashbacks of that most awful day of my life when the police officer came to tell me the terrible news that my wonderful husband Stuart had been so tragically killed.

My life is so empty without Stuart and the home we both loved so much is so empty and lonely without him there to greet me and put his arms around me.

He left behind a most wonderful daughter, Laura, and her partner Michelle, who loved her dad so much and misses him terribly.

Also a beautiful grandson, Finnley Stuart, who is 19-months- old.

Stuart would have adored him and will never see or share the joy of him growing.

Any family occasions are never the same without our lovely Stuart.

Many people and friends all miss his cheery smile and wonderful personality.

He always had time for a chat with everyone and loved life.

Stuart was a professional photographer for 50 years and was very well known and admired.

It has left a deep, empty and lonely sadness in myself and life will never ever be the same without my lovely Stuart.

We had been married for 43 years and were so looking forward to the years ahead of us in our retirement.

When I open my eyes in the morning I always dread another day without my Stuart.

The things we wanted to do together in our later years have been so tragically taken away from me.

Stuart was always the most careful and experienced motorist and cyclist and had been cycling on the road where he so tragically died for many years.

It has been so difficult for me getting prepared for the court case to try to get justice for Stuart and twice it had been cancelled just a few days before to cause me so much mental stress.

It’s been three long years of waiting and hoping to get the court case and see justice done for my wonderful Stuart.

He was my love, my life, my world and I find it very difficult to live without him by my side.”