A lottery winner has been found not guilty of killing a pensioner by dangerous driving in a Christmas Day crash after taking his eyes off the road to retrieve a teddy bear for his screaming toddler.
Matthew Topham, reported to be Britain’s youngest EuroMillions jackpot winner after pocketing £45 million in 2012, caused the death of 75-year-old Mary Jane Regler at around 5.50pm on December 25 2019.
The 31-year-old admitted causing death by careless driving before the start of his three-day trial, but jurors agreed his actions could not be deemed as dangerous after deliberating for just over an hour.
A trial at Lincoln Crown Court heard Topham looked away from the road for “a split second” in order to retrieve the teddy which was dropped on the floor by his two-year-old son.
Jurors accepted his submissions that he did it “instinctively” after his youngest son let out a “piercing” screaming which sounded “like a burglar alarm”.
They heard Topham crashed his BMW into a Ford Fiesta driven by 78-year-old Rodney Regler on Louth Road in North Cockerington, Lincolnshire, at around 5.50pm.
As a result of the crash, Mrs Regler died from severe chest injuries and Mr Regler suffered serious injuries.
Topham, of Swinderby, Lincolnshire, was found not guilty of causing death by dangerous driving and causing serious injuries to Mr Regler by dangerous driving – but admitted causing death by careless driving.
Opening the case against Topham on Monday, prosecution barrister Michael Cranmer-Brown said Mr and Mrs Regler were driving home after having Christmas dinner at their son’s house.
Giving evidence in his defence, Topham told the jury he was not “consciously making a decision” due to the “piercing” screams of his youngest son.
He said: “If I was consciously making a decision, I hope I would come to a better conclusion than I did that day.
“If I could take it back I would, but I can’t.”
In his prosecution opening, Mr Cranmer-Brown had attempted to argue Topham’s son being upset was “irrelevant”.
But the jury dismissed this argument after brief deliberations on Tuesday.
Judge Catarina Sjolin Knight told Topham he had “the night to spend with your family” before adjourning sentence for causing death by careless driving until Thursday.