Virgin bank boss cleared of causing death by dangerous driving on A1

Virgin Money operations director Gordon Soutar has been found not guilty of causing the death of a van driver in Northumberland

Gordon Soutar leaving Newcastle Crown court
Gordon Soutar leaving Newcastle Crown court

A bank boss has been cleared of causing the death of a van driver in a head-on crash on the A1 in Northumberland.

Gordon Soutar was yesterday cleared of causing death by dangerous driving and the lesser alternative of causing death by careless driving.

Mr Soutar, operations director at Virgin Money, had told jurors he had been suffering from undiagnosed sleep apnoea at the time and must have been having a “micro sleep” while at the wheel.

His BMW drifted into oncoming traffic on a single carriageway stretch of the road, killing Nigel Sowerby, 37.

But Mr Soutar, 50, said he could not remember anything about the accident and said tests after the fatal crash revealed he had the sleeping condition.

Jurors yesterday took around 90 minutes to acquit him of any wrongdoing after a week-long trial at Newcastle Crown Court.

During the trial he told the court he prays for his alleged victim’s family every day.

Looking towards Mr Sowerby’s family in the public gallery, he said: “If I could address the family. It has been 16  months since that very tragic accident and there has not been a day that has passed when I have not thought about the family.

“I pray for them every day. Whatever happens after this they will always be in my thoughts.”

Married Mr Soutar, a father-of-three and a grandfather, told how he had started as an office junior with Bank of Scotland then worked his way up the ranks to senior management level.

He said he had been head-hunted by RBS and also worked for Capita before joining Virgin Money in April 2012. At the time of the accident he had 640 people working for him in Newcastle, Edinburgh and Norwich.

He was doing his usual Monday morning commute in his BMW from his home in Scotland to Virgin Money’s office Gosforth in November 2012.

Mr Soutar said his last memory of the journey was passing a supermarket in Berwick and the next thing he remembers is coming round in the car after the crash, himself seriously injured.

He told how since the accident he had been getting the train to work in Newcastle and now does limited driving and always with his wife beside him.

He said: “I always have my wife in the car now for comfort. It may be a confidence thing. It’s a big shock and a big scare to be involved in such a serious accident.”

Prosecutors had claimed Mr Soutar was distracted at the time of the fatal crash on the A1 near Felton, Northumberland.

The bank boss, of Cairneyhill, Dunfermline, was heading south while Mr Sowerby, from West Yorkshire, was in his works van with his colleague going north.

Other drivers told heading north told how Mr Soutar’s white, personalised registration-plated BMW slowly drifted into their path, clipping one vehicle before crashing almost head-on with Mr Sowerby’s van, killing him and injuring his workmate.

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