A footballer accused of killing a husband and wife by driving dangerously has walked free from court after jurors acquitted him of the charge.
Liam McWatt, 24, left the dock after the jury returned a not proven verdict to the allegation that he was criminally responsible for the deaths of Harry and Shirley Taggerty.
McWatt, of Leslie Mains, Leslie, Glenrothes, spent the past week standing trial at for the alleged offence which took place on July 13 2019 on the A911 road in his home town.
He believed he blacked out in the moments before his car collided with the couple and wasn’t guilty of the charge brought to court by the Crown.
Relatives of Mr and Mrs Taggerty wept in the public benches as the jury returned their verdict at the High Court in Edinburgh.
Lord Scott told McWatt: “You are free to leave the dock.”
During proceedings, jurors heard the contents of a statement which they were told contained evidence which had been agreed as being “conclusively proved”.
The jurors heard that on July 13 2019 between 10.05am and 10.15am McWatt was the driver and “sole occupant” of a Ford Fiesta which was travelling west bound on the A911, Leslie Road in Glenrothes.
The jury also heard that the “accused’s car” then struck Harry Taggerty, who was aged 61 and Shirley who was aged 58. Their lives were pronounced “extinct” at 10.22am.
The jury also heard that McWatt provided a “negative” breath specimen at 11.05am on July 13 2019 and that “no defects were found” on his vehicle which “could cause or contribute” to the collision.
They also heard PC Joseph Archer speak of the “very tragic and very traumatic” moment he saw McWatt’s car mount a pavement and strike the couple who were sent “flying into the air”.
PC Archer told the court of how he and his colleague were patrolling in the town when he noticed McWatt’s car on the other side of the road.
He told prosecutor Alan Cameron KC that he stopped the van he was in after seeing the pedestrians being struck and he went down an embankment by the side of the road.
He said he saw Mr and Mrs Taggerty lying there on the ground and he could see the car lying overturned.
PC Archer told the court he told found “no signs of life” from the Taggertys
The court also heard that McWatt said ‘I don’t know what happened. I must have blacked out’ at the scene.
Eyewitness Lee Tindall, 46, has since died since witnessing the collision. But he gave a statement to the police shortly after the incident.
Advocate depute Mr Cameron read Mr Tindall’s words to the court.
Mr Tindall told the officers: “As the car travelled down the pavement, I estimate the car was doing around 60 miles per hour.
“Further down the pavement I could see a man and a woman walking down the pavement towards Glenrothes town centre.
“I looked down and could see the woman was laughing and as she done so she put her head down.
“I could see the car was careering down the pavement at speed towards the couple and I could see the hadn’t seen the car coming towards them.
“The male pedestrian…. grabbed the female’s hand… in an attempt to pull her out of the way but didn’t manage to do so.
“The vehicle struck both pedestrians throwing them approximately 25 feet into the air whilst they were still holding hands. They both landed into the wooded area in Glenrothes town park.”
Prosecutors claimed that on July 13 2019 McWatt drove whilst using a mobile phone, drove at excessive speed and entered the opposing carriageway whilst it was “unsafe to do.”
Prosecutors said he then drove into the path of oncoming traffic which caused other drivers to brake and “take evasive action to avoid a collision”.
However, in giving evidence, McWatt the days before the collision, had been feeling unwell and had been sent home early from his bank job because his manager thought he looked “terrible”.
He also told the court that he was due to go on a family holiday on July 13 2019 and had gone out in his car to have a chat with his friend and to get cash.
He told the court that he couldn’t remember what happened in the moments leading up to the collision.
Defence advocate Michael Meehan KC asked him what he could remember and, McWatt replied: “Waking up upside down in my car with my seatbelt on. I didn’t know what had happened.
“I thought that something happened to me.
“I woke up and I was upside down in my car and I thought maybe I had been pushed off the road. I was so confused.”
He said he could hear voices asking him if he was okay and he walked to an ambulance close by “unaided”.
He suffered swelling to his jaw and cuts to his head and forearm.
He said he mentioned ‘blacking out’ to police officers at the scene and they came with him to the hospital.
Speaking about what happened after he was told that two people had died, McWatt said: “I couldn’t believe it. I was so shook up and distraught.”
On Thursday, Mr Meehan told jurors that the evidence showed that his client hadn’t been driving dangerously and urged them to acquit him.
Jurors took less than two hours to return their verdict.
Lord Scott also thanked the members of Mr and Mrs Taggerty’s family who were present in the court for the way they conducted themselves.
He said: “I am grateful to you for the way you have conducted yourselves for what must have been a very difficult time.”
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