Haydock Park Racecourse chairman accused of running over bride’s mother acquitted as trial collapses

The trial of a hotel owner who ran over a bride’s mother on the eve of a wedding has been halted after prosecutors said there was no longer a prospect of a conviction.
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Nicholas Bannister, 64, was on trial at Bradford Crown Court accused of causing the death of Judith Wadsworth, 66, by careless driving.

On Tuesday, Mr Bannister – chairman of Haydock Park Racecourse – was formally acquitted by a jury on the directions of a judge.

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

Nicholas Bannister is chairman of Haydock Park RacecourseNicholas Bannister is chairman of Haydock Park Racecourse
Nicholas Bannister is chairman of Haydock Park Racecourse
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A jury heard how the vehicle pulled out from a small road from the reception area and was travelling at 9-12mph.

Mr Bannister stopped the car about 20 metres after the impact.

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

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

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

The trial heard how Mrs Wadsworth checked into the hotel for her daughter’s wedding, scheduled for the next day, and was walking 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”.

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

Mr Bannister, of Bell Busk, near Skipton, said: “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 prosecution case ran into difficulties during the evidence of the police officer who oversaw the investigation, PC Emma Drummond, who told jurors she had recorded the exact position of Mrs Wadsworth’s Mini car in the car park in her notebook.

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

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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 by the police in the hotel grounds two years after the incident.

She told Judge Gibson the information about the location of the Mini fundamentally changed how the reconstruction could be interpreted.

She had already criticised the reconstruction as she questioned experts, police and other witnesses, pointing out 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.

Addressing the jury on Tuesday, Michael Smith, prosecuting, 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 racing community as a horse owner and chairman of Haydock Park Racecourse. His son Harry is a jump jockey.