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Man goes on trial accused of killing cyclist near Boddam

Delivery driver Christopher Morrison is accused of colliding with Robert Cowie, 52, who died following the crash on the A90 Aberdeen to Peterhead road on December 2 2020.

The scene of the accident where Robert Cowie was killed.
Robert Cowie was killed as he cycled his bike on the A90 between Boddam and Stirlinghill Quarry. Image: Jim Irvine/DC Thomson.

A delivery driver on trial accused of causing the death of a “well-liked” Boddam cyclist has described the moment he realised he had hit someone with his van.

Christopher Morrison’s vehicle collided with Robert Cowie, 52, on the A90 Aberdeen to Peterhead road on December 2 2020.

The 41-year-old is facing one charge of death by careless driving, alleging he wasn’t paying enough attention to the road or adverse weather conditions in the moments before striking Mr Cowie.

It is alleged the impact of the collision propelled the cyclist into the path of another vehicle, which also struck him.

Mr Cowie, who was from Boddam, died of his injuries at the scene. Morrison denies the charge against him.

Police interview played to jury

Giving evidence, Pc Cameron Griffiths said he had attended the scene of the accident shortly after 3pm and spoke to Morrison at that time.

A video of a police interview carried out by the officer in July 2021 was played to the court.

In it Morrison states the sun was “quite bright” as he drove from Boddam up the hill towards the Stirlinghill Quarry junction when he suddenly heard a “bang”.

“I looked around and saw that my wing mirror was gone,” Morrison told the officer. “I turned back to see what had happened. I had no idea.”

Morrison then goes on to say he spoke to the driver of the car which had been directly behind him, Catherine Thomson, and described her as being “hysterical”.

He continued: “She said she had hit something. I asked if it was a deer or something. Then I saw the group of people gathered round the cyclist – that’s when I slowly realised that I must have hit him.

“I never saw him at all.”

‘Horrendously’ bright sun was nearly ‘blinding’

The charge alleges that Morrison was driving his white Volkswagen Crafter van southbound on the A90 road between Boddam and Stirlinghill Quarry at around 2.30pm when he caused the death of Mr Cowie.

Catherine Thomson, 29, also gave evidence and told the court that the sun was “horrendously” bright.

She had been driving to Ellon to meet a friend with her one-year-old son in the car and described the moment she heard a “crashing noise”.

She said: “I just saw something coming towards my car, but I wasn’t able to stop in time. I just saw orange.”

Ms Thomson went on to say she stopped as soon as she could and said she was in shock.

Appearing visibly upset when giving evidence, Ms Thomson told the court that “everything was a blur”.

Under cross-examination from Morrison’s defence agent David Nicolson, Ms Thomson described how visibility had been with regards to the sun.

“It went from being still visible to being blinding nearly,” she said.

She conceded that she could not tell if the orange something she saw was a person or a bin bag and could not recall what vehicle had been driving in front of her.

Dashcam footage played in court

The court was shown dashcam footage from another vehicle, which was also travelling southbound at around the same time, and stills taken from it.

Other footage showed Mr Cowie on his bike wearing a bright orange jacket.

The images showed the sun almost completely blocking out the view of the centre of the screen and no other vehicles could be seen or made out due to the glare of the sunlight.

The court heard a post-mortem on Mr Cowie revealed no traces of drink or drugs in his system and he died of multiple injuries to his head, chest, abdomen and pelvis. Paramedics pronounced him dead at 3.41pm.

Fiscal depute Neil MacDonald read a joint minute of agreement, telling the court that Morrison had also tested negative for alcohol and drugs and video footage from his Hilton Instruments work van had been submitted.

The jury made up of 11 women and 3 men heard that Mr Cowie was a regular cyclist in the area – taking to the road a few times a week.

One juror was dispensed with as the trial began, taking the total to 14, Sheriff Philip Mann only said the man had been “unable to proceed”.

Morrison, of Hilton Drive, Aberdeen, is alleged to have driven without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other road users.

It is further alleged that Morrison “failed to maintain proper observations” for others using the road who were ahead of him and that he failed to “sufficiently adapt” his driving to the prevailing weather conditions.

The charge ends by accusing Morrison of colliding with Mr Cowie and his bike, causing them to fall on the road and be struck by an oncoming grey Seat Ateca car, which was being driven by Catherine Thomson.

Mr Cowie, who lived with his mother on Boddam’s Rocksley Drive, was described as a well-liked local who was Boddam born and bred.

At the time of the incident, one resident described the death of Mr Cowie as “tragic” and “very sad news for the village.”

The trial being heard by Sheriff Philip Mann continues.

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