Woman killed after driver ploughed into family on Boxing Day walk

Janette Henry claimed she 'blacked out' before hitting Eleanor Ballantyne and her family while out for a Boxing Day walk.

Woman killed after 4×4 driver lost control of car and crashed into family on Boxing Day walk Google Maps

A pensioner has been convicted of causing a Boxing Day crash that resulted in the death of woman out walking with her family.

Janette Henry, 67, was behind the wheel of her Range Rover when she hit community worker Eleanor Ballantyne and five relatives while on their way to a restaurant in Bearsden, East Dunbartonshire on December 26, 2019.

Henry told jurors she had no memory of the collision claiming she had got out her vehicle to a “scene from hell”.

The trial heard claims she could have suffered a blackout at the wheel similar to the driver in the Glasgow bin lorry tragedy eight years ago.

But, Henry faces a possible jail term after she was convicted of causing death by careless driving at the High Court in Glasgow.

Ms Ballantyne’s brother Brian Ballantyne, 59, had earlier told the trial how the family had got together for a traditional Boxing Day gathering at his home in Bearsden.

The group were then walking on the pavement to a local restaurant when tragedy struck.

Brian – a company director – recalled seeing a car with “very bright” lights coming towards them and then a “terrible thudding”.

Henry’s 4×4 had mounted the pavement, struck a wall before hitting the group and then a parked Jaguar car.

After checking on his family, Brian recalled Henry standing on the street.

Asked what she was like, he stated: “I will never forget her demeanour the rest of my life.

“It was almost as if she had parked her car. Her behaviour was too normal.”

Ms Ballantyne’s other brother Charles Ballantyne, 52, also spoke about the crash.

He told jurors: “I remember watching the car and trying to process why it was not slowing down.

“I do not know if it was picking up pace, but it was not slowing down.

“I swung my wife around. The one thing I remember was the car being massive.”

In the aftermath, he spotted his stricken sister among the injured.

Transport manager Charles said: “My wife was hysterical. I remember them shouting to get Eleanor, pointing out where she was.

“She was face down in a puddle – half on the pavement and half off.”

Also asked about Henry afterwards, the witness said: “She did not acknowledge us.”

Ms Ballantyne, 60, of Dundee, was left so badly hurt, she died in hospital days later.

Prosecutors stated Henry had failed to negotiate a bend and then travelled across the opposite lane.

She was said to have struck the wall and not stopped her vehicle before hitting the family.

Henry – who worked in human resources – told jurors she had been returning to Bearsden from Loch Lomond with relatives when the crash occurred.

As she neared home, the OAP recalled slowing down on a narrow road to pass parked cars and her next memory was airbags deploying in her 4×4.

She was said to have “screamed” before the collision, but the pensioner claimed to have no memory of that.

Her KC Thomas Ross put to her: “Other than a medical emergency, can you think of any other reason why you would plough into a wall and a group of pedestrians?”

Henry replied: “No.”

Prosecutor Adrian Stalker later stated when Henry got out her vehicle and realised what happened must have been “horrifying”.

Henry said: “It does not even come close. I was met with something that was like a scene out of hell.”

Mr Stalker put to Henry that she now “could not accept” what she had done.

She replied: “I do not know what happened.”

Medical experts who gave evidence could not rule out Henry suffered a sudden loss of consciousness at the wheel.

In his closing speech, defence advocate Mr Ross argued that being so there was “no culpability or justification for punishment”.

He referred to two other high profile road fatalities, where the drivers also reportedly suffered blackouts and did not appear in the dock.

These were Harry Clarke – who crashed his bin lorry in Glasgow’s George Square killing six people in 2014 – as well as William Payne, who hit two young women in the city centre four years earlier.

Mr Ross stated: “So, three drivers – the bin lorry, Glasgow Caledonian University driver (Payne) and Mrs Henry.

“Three tragic incidents – all in the Glasgow area and all in December.

“How is it that she is the only one who is prosecuted? 

“The answer might be in the other cases the Crown seems to have accepted that the drivers were unconscious.

“But, in this case, the advocate depute prosecuting has spent 45 minutes (in his closing speech) trying to persuade you that she was not.”

Henry had faced an allegation of causing death by dangerous driving before jurors found her guilty of the alternative charge.

She showed no emotion at the verdict, but a number of her family and Ms Ballantyne’s were seen to be upset.

Lord Stuart deferred sentencing for reports until February and banned Henry from the road meantime.

The judge told her: “Between now and the next hearing, I will continue your bail.”

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