A young German couple’s first-ever holiday together visiting castles in Scotland ended in a deadly two-car crash on the A82 after less than five months together.
Gerrit Reickmann took to the wheel of a hired Blue Citroen C3 – his first time driving in a foreign country – and went on to kill his 24-year-old girlfriend Melina Rosa Päprer.
Reickmann, 30, of Am Hanloh, Münster, Germany, recalled Melina shouting his name just before the horrific impact near Borlum Farm, Drumnadrochit, on October 12 2020.
The German tourist had denied killing Melina, of Lüneburg in Germany, by driving dangerously on the wrong side of the carriageway.
But on the second day of evidence at the High Court in Inverness, he halted his trial by pleading guilty to a less serious offence.
Proceedings against Gerrit Reickmann took an unexpected twist after jurors had already watched video of the injured 30-year-old being questioned by police in his hospital bed.
It followed the deadly smash between the Blue Citroen C3 and a grey Honda CRV.
On Thursday, the accused admitted to an amended charge of causing serious injury and death by careless driving.
Earlier, the court had heard evidence that throughout Police Scotland’s investigation, Reickmann accepted responsibility for the tragedy.
He’d told officers that the death of his partner Melina was his fault.
Footage of him being questioned by police while laid in a hospital bed just four days after the fatal collision was played back to the jury.
Melina Rosa Päprer and Geritt Reickmann had been dating less than five months before the A82 crash
Translating Reickmann’s response to the question of who was to blame, an interpreter said: “Him, because he was driving on the wrong side of the road”.
With the help of the interpreter, Reickmann told officers that he and Melina had been enjoying their first holiday together after almost five months as a couple.
He said he had hired the Blue Citroen C3 at Edinburgh airport and the pair had travelled north to visit castles.
It was his first time driving in a foreign country, having passed his test in 2018.
Reickmann said that, on the day in question, the pair had travelled from their accommodation near Aberdeen to visit Urquhart Castle on the shores of Loch Ness.
They were about to head back when Reickmann decided to turn the car around so they could visit the Falls of Foyers.
Following the manoeuvre, Reickmann pulled onto the wrong side of the road, for what he believed to be around 15 or 20 seconds before the life-ending impact.
Speaking through the interpreter, he told officers: “Melina was not aware of being on the wrong side of the road because she was looking at her phone.
He added that the last thing he remembered in the moments before the collision was Melina looking up and shouting his name.
Geritt Reickmann missed opportunities to keep safe on the A82 before the crash that killed Melina
The jury had previously heard from 59-year-old Catherine Bruce, the occupant of the other car, who was seriously injured in the crash, as well as witnesses to the aftermath.
Video of a police investigation drive-through, showing the scene, was also played out in court.
It showed how Reickmann had not long passed a sign reading “Drive on the Left” in both German and English when he pulled onto the opposing carriageway.
The video also highlighted how the driver would have passed a number of rear-facing road signs and upside-down road markings on his side of the road.
A crash probe concluded that Reickmann would have been travelling on the wrong side of the road for between 25 and 40 seconds before the collision.
Speaking after the plea of guilty to the lesser charge of careless driving was accepted, defence solicitor advocate James Keegan KC told the court: “It was a short distance. Just a terrible tragedy”.
He said that his client, a first-time offender, had remained in the hospital in Scotland for a week after the crash, before continuing his hospital treatment in Germany.
Following his release, Mr Keegan added: “He went with his mother and stepfather to see Melina’s parents and they told him they didn’t lay the blame on him”.
A82 crash survivor was severely injured in Drumnadrochit collision
The judge, Lady Drummond told Reickmann: “You have today pled guilty to causing death by careless driving and to causing severe injury to another by careless driving.
“I have heard the evidence in the case. It is clear you made a mistake, after turning your car around, of driving onto the wrong side of the road.
“Your driving has had the very tragic consequence of the death of Melina Päprer and also severe injury to Catherine Bruce.
“I will take all of the circumstances into account in deciding what sentence to impose.”
Lady Drummond called for pre-sentencing reports to be prepared before the next hearing, which will take place at Aberdeen High Court in the new year.
She disqualified Reickmann from driving with immediate effect, for a period to be determined at sentencing.
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