Skipton death crash: Hotel owner who ran over bride-to-be’s mother cleared as trial collapses

 Hotel owner, Nicholas Bannister, who ran over a bride-to-be’s mother on the eve of a wedding, has been formally acquitted. 

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The trial of a hotel owner who ran over a bride-to-be’s mother on the eve of a wedding has been halted. Nicholas Bannister, 64, has been on trial at Bradford Crown Court since last week accused of causing the death by careless driving of Judith Wadsworth, 66.

On Tuesday (September 19), Mr Bannister was formally acquitted by a jury on the directions of a judge after prosecutors said there was no longer a prospect of a conviction on the evidence available.

Mrs Wadsworth was crossing an access road near the main entrance to the Coniston Hotel, near Skipton, North Yorkshire, when she was hit by Mr Bannister’s Range Rover in February 2020.

A jury has heard how the vehicle had just pulled out from a small road from the reception area and was travelling at 9-12 mph at the time of the collision.

Mr Bannister stopped the Range Rover about 20 metres after the impact and later told officers he only realised what happened after hearing a “terrible noise” from under his vehicle.

Prosecutor Michael Smith told the jury the prosecution was no longer offering any evidence.

Judge Jonathan Gibson said this was “an entirely appropriate decision in my view” and ordered the jury of four men and seven women to find Mr Bannister not guilty.

Mr Bannister, who is the owner and managing director of the Coniston Hotel, said he did not wish to comment as he left court.

The trial heard how Mrs Wadsworth had checked into the hotel for her daughter’s wedding, scheduled for the next day, and was walking back to reception after collecting items from her car when the incident happened.

The jury heard how Mr Bannister told police and others at the scene “I just didn’t see her”.

In his police interview, he described how he got into his car outside the hotel with the intention of driving the 300-400m to the spa complex to go for a run.

Mr Bannister, of Bell Busk, near Skipton, said in the interview: “I turned right and the first I was aware was a terrible noise I heard from under my car. I assumed something had gone wrong with my car.”

The court heard how members of Mrs Wadsworth’s family emerged from the hotel after the collision as hotel staff and then the emergency services tried to help her despite severe injuries.

The prosecution case ran into difficulties during the evidence of the police officer who oversaw the investigation, Pc Emma Drummond, who told jurors that she had recorded the exact position of Mrs Wadsworth’s Mini car in the hotel car park in her notebook.

Lisa Judge, defending Mr Bannister, told the court that this information had not been made available to the defence team and the notebook had not been disclosed by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Ms Judge said these “flagrant failures on behalf of the prosecution” meant much of the case presented against her client was no longer admissible, especially relating to a reconstruction done by the police in the hotel grounds two years after the incident.

She told Judge Gibson that the information about the location of the Mini fundamentally changed how the reconstruction could be interpreted by the various experts who gave evidence in the trial, including collision investigators and conspicuity consultants.

The defence barrister had already criticised the police’s reconstruction as she questioned the experts, police and other witnesses, pointing out that it was impossible to know exactly where the Range Rover was positioned at the time of the collision and where Mrs Wadsworth was as she crossed the road.

Ms Judge also questioned whether a GoPro camera strapped to a headrest gave an accurate representation of what a driver would see as they negotiated the turn.

Addressing the jury on Tuesday, Michael Smith, prosecuting, said the CPS had a duty to keep a case under review during a trial.

He said: “The CPS takes the view that there is no longer a realistic prospect of conviction in this case.”

Mr Bannister is a well-known figure in the north of England, especially in the racing community as a horse owner and the chairman of Haydock Park Racecourse.

His son Harry is a jump jockey.

Before taking over the hotel, Mr Bannister worked in investment banking.