Driver in fatal Sussex collision had been taking painkillers and 'simply did not see' pedestrians

Emma Downs appeared in court today charged with causing the deaths of Matthew Lind and James Morden by careless driving
Emma Downs appeared in court today charged with causing the deaths of Matthew Lind and James Morden by careless driving

A 4x4 driver who ploughed into three pedestrians was taking Tramadol for cracked ribs and could not see properly, a trial has heard.

Matthew Lind and James Morden, both 31, were walking back from a pub with friends just after sunset when they were tragically killed in the crash near Lewes.

The crash happened on Harvey's Lane - near Ringmer and Lewes - on September 9, 2017. Picture: Google Streetview

The crash happened on Harvey's Lane - near Ringmer and Lewes - on September 9, 2017. Picture: Google Streetview

Just days before the collision, driver Emma Downs told friends ‘I can barely drive, it’s not safe at night’, a court heard today.

Downs – who had been prescribed tramadol and morphine for cracked ribs - said she was ‘really struggling’ with her medication and needed an eye test.

Downs, 38, of Sussex View Close in Crowborough, appeared at Lewes Crown Court today charged with causing Matthew and James’ deaths by careless driving in September 2017.

She denies the offences and the trial began today.

The trial began today at Lewes Crown Court

The trial began today at Lewes Crown Court

Prosecutor Elizabeth Lowe said: “We are not suggesting that she was unfit to drive as a result of her taking medication or illness or injury.

“She was having difficulty seeing at night time while driving.”

The court heard that Downs fell in the bathroom and cracked her ribs in the weeks before the incident and was prescribed tramadol and morphine.

The prosecutor read out texts Downs sent to friends and family in the lead up to the crash.

Three days before the incident, she sent a message saying ‘I keep nodding off’ and another saying ‘I am in a lot of pain. I am really tired [and] have had five hours sleep in two days’.

Another text, appearing to refer to a previous journey, said: ‘I wanted to get home before it gets dark because of my eyes in the dark being so tired and my meds I just can’t see.’

The prosecutor also drew attention to a text sent at 7.51pm on the night of the collision, just before Downs set off from the stables where she had been looking after her horses.

Downs said in the text that she ‘kept falling over’ and ‘wanted to lie on the sofa as she did not feel well’, the court heard.

Lauren Maynard was Matthew Lind’s partner at the time of the crash and was walking with him and James Morden when she saw the Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 approaching.

She told the trial: “We had seen the sunset over the field so James, Matthew and I stopped to take a photo, [then] continued walking.

“As soon as I heard it I turned round. I said ‘car’ and we moved into single file.

“I started to say ‘the car’s not slowing down -’.

“I did not finish the sentence and it hit us.”

Downs was believed to be driving at between 40mph and 50mph at the time of the crash, according to experts.

The prosecutor said: “They conclude that that speed was not excessive for that road.

“Neither expert was able to say exactly why it was that Miss Downs didn’t see the pedestrians.

“Ultimately they concluded that she didn’t see them and she collided with them.”

The trial continues.