Much-loved Devon carer killed by driver doing U-turn

-Credit: (Image: Devon and Cornwall Police)
-Credit: (Image: Devon and Cornwall Police)

A much-loved Paignton carer died after being struck by the driver of a pick-up truck who suddenly did a U-turn when he realised he had forgotten something at home. Joseph Duff had been riding his scooter on his way back home from doing a night shift at the care home where he worked and was travelling along the A385 Totnes Road at Tweenaway Cross, at around 8.15am on Saturday, April 9, 2022, when he collided with a Nissan Navara.

An inquest at Exeter Coroner’s Court today, May 24, heard the 56-year-old, of Paignton, died at the scene after suffering fatal injuries. The driver of the pick-up truck, Philip Rowe, later pleaded guilty at Newton Abbot Magistrates Court to the death of Mr Duff by driving without due care and attention.

He was given a 20-week custodial sentence which was suspended for 12 months due to the prospect of rehabilitation. He was also disqualified from driving for 15 months and ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work.

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MPC Sarah Harvey told the inquest the collision occurred just after a set of traffic lights at Tweenaway Cross - the main road between Totnes and Paignton. She said Mr Rowe had been travelling towards the direction of Totnes in lane one of the carriageway when he said he had put his indicator on and checked his mirror and over his shoulder before performing a U-turn as 'traffic was light'.

While carrying out the manoeuvre, he recalled a sudden loud impact and said he had not previously seen a scooter travelling in lane two and was unaware of the no U-turn signs.

MPC Harvey said: "The Nissan driver stated he had just driven through the junction and realised he had forgotten something at home and decided to turn around."

The Devon Air Ambulance on the A385 Totnes Road
The Devon Air Ambulance on the A385 Totnes Road -Credit:Dave Roach

The inquest heard that following the collision, Mr Duff had initially been conscious and talking but his breathing deteriorated and he passed after shortly afterwards despite the best efforts of ambulance crews. The cause of his death was a significant chest injury.

MPC Harvey added Mr Rowe was 'extremely remorseful' for what happened and had written a letter to his partner, Donna Baxter.

In a moving statement, she told how they had been together for nearly 36 years and had a daughter together. She described her loss as 'devastating'.

She recalled how she had been waiting for him to return home, but instead, police officers arrived at the door.

Miss Baxter said: "They told me the worst news I have ever had. I feel so upset that the crash was just around the corner from our house."

She added: "He was my world and would do anything for me and I love him."

She continued: "I am upset and angry I did not get a chance to go to Joe when he needed me. The collision hurt me and my family so much, not just on that day; it still hurts now."

Angered to have lost Mr Duff, who was born in Birmingham, in what she described as an 'unnecessary road traffic collision', she said: "Why could he [Mr Rowe] not have turned around somewhere else? Why did he have to do a U-turn where he did?

"That decision cost Joe his life and has handed me a life sentence too as I now have to live my life without Joe. I miss him so much."

Recording a conclusion of road traffic collision, assistant coroner Deborah Archer described Mr Duff's death as an 'absolute tragedy'. She said: "I echo words of Miss Baxter that he [Mr Rowe] has served his sentence and come through it but Miss Baxter has effectively been given a life sentence by his actions on that day.

"Although I'm sure he regrets it, it can never bring Mr Duff back. Losing a caring husband and carer must be an absolutely devastating experience for Miss Baxter and her family."