An inquest into the death of experienced cyclist, Simon Richardson, who sustained multiple injuries after crashing into trees on 4 April 2021 on the Marlow Road near to Swiss Farm, has recorded a narrative verdict, saying that the circumstances leading to his death are unclear.
At the inquest a statement from Simon’s widow, Camilla was read: “The day Simon died was the day before my birthday and the last thing we did together was collect my birthday cake from the bakers. On the day of his death, Simon got changed into his cycling kit and left the clothes he was wearing on our bed in order to get changed back into them on his return. We were having a conversation, which ended – as it usually did – with Simon saying: “OK, I’m going to go and ride my bike in a circle.” I replied “Be careful”. He said, “That’s my middle name.” Camilla’s statement continued: “Since 2011 when Simon started keeping electronic records he has cycled over 43,000 miles without falling over on his road bike. He was very aware of the dangers of cycling on roads; For example, he would avoid riding too close to the edge of the road because there would be drains and debris that could cause a fall or a puncture.”
David Pratt who was driving and overtook Simon said, “When I was immediately behind him (the cyclist) there were a couple of cars coming the other way so I waited for them. As soon as they’d gone there was plenty of space to overtake. I could see far enough in the distance so I pulled over into the other lane, overtook and after he’d gone out of my sight as you’d expect from your peripheral vision my passenger said something. I don’t remember what she said but she was alerting me to that she thought something had happened. After a minute of not sure what to do we decided to turn around.”
Photographs of Mr Pratt’s car were submitted as evidence with the near-side wing mirror glass missing and was found in the foot well of the car. The police statement said “Mr Pratt confirmed that the mirror glass had been cracked for some time and fell off a week earlier.” TVP said there was no evidence that suggested the account from Mr Pratt, regarding the wing mirror glass falling out a week before, was inaccurate
Katrina Fox was Mr Pratt’s passenger who said “I noticed the cyclist in front of us. I remember the other side of the road was empty as I was very aware of cyclists as we had seen many throughout the day and was looking out for any cyclists coming in the opposite direction. As we approached the cyclist I could see him reaching for a drink around the right hand side of his body, I saw him put the bottle towards his mouth and I assume he took a sip.”
“As we passed the cyclist, I thought he must have fallen off due to how he had veered towards the tree as he was wobbling. I remember vividly turning around in my seat to see what had happened. I remarked to my partner that he must have fallen off and shortly after we had passed, I asked my partner to turn around.” Ms Fox called the emergency services who arrived 20 minutes later.
Ana Maria Craciun said “I noticed a bike lying on the verge of the road, as we drove past I have seen the cyclist lying about 2 metres away from the bike, he appeared to me to be lying in a very strange position. We turned around a little way up the road and came back to where the cyclist was. As we stopped I have seen another car had stopped and they driver and passenger were out of the car with the female on the phone to I assume the ambulance. I have immediately gone over to the cyclist. I couldn’t see any obvious injuries I could see that he was trying to move.”
Mr Szymon Mikolajczyk who passed Simon on his bike said, “I remember the car in front of me started to brake, this was due to a cyclist in front of it travelling in the same direction. From the time I had him in my view, he was riding fine, he was keeping his distance from the edge of the road probably about two and half foot away from the edge, but wasn’t riding in the middle of it.”
A statement by Mr Richardson’s former manager, Jim McFarlane, Founder of cycling brand Endura – was read out: “the idea that Simon would crash his bike because he was taking a drink of water is simply not credible”, a sentiment shared with the family.
Martin Porter, QC on behalf of the family challenged Ms Fox about a call to the emergency services, in which she said she was calling about a “cyclist who has been hit” and her claim that she did not see Simon or his bike with flashing front and rear lights lying at the side of the road a short distance from where they turned around, nor as they drove past.”
Forensic Collision Investigator, Luke Webb was also challenged by QC Mr Porter “that there were no marks on the wing mirror casing” on the witness stand he conceded that there was a small mark on the wing mirror after Mr Porter, pointed this out. Mr Webb also told the court that there were no marks on the passenger side of the car indicating contact with Mr Richardson, but he didn’t take any photographs of the near side.
When asked why Mr Webb gave the incorrect time of the collision (15 minutes out) Mr Webb admitted to not having examined Mr Richardson’s cycling computer to establish the collision time and had never in fact examined a cycle computer. The incorrect time was subsequently used by the police in their press appeal for witnesses but no witnesses came forward. TVP said, “With the assistance of ANPR data the police identified, and spoke with, all the known cars on the road at that time and unfortunately no other witnesses were identified (other than those who gave evidence at the inquest). Mr Webb explained in evidence the time referred to in his report was the time this incident was reported to TVP and not the exact time the incident may have occurred.
Mr Webb wasn’t aware that close passes are one of the main complaints by cyclists and conceded that this is the first case he has investigated where a cyclist has had a fatal incident whilst allegedly drinking from his water bottle. Nevertheless, Mr Webb stuck to his conclusion that this was the most likely outcome.
Detective Sergeant Darren Brown of the Serious Collision Investigation Unit, said: “Our thoughts remain with the family of Mr Richardson through what I can only imagine has been an extremely difficult time. I also understand that, as a bereaved family, all they have wished to know is the exact circumstances that lead to Simon’s death. A full investigation was conducted following this incident by Thames Valley Police, which found and has also been concluded by the assistant coroner, there was no independent evidence to suggest that Mr Richardson was struck by the Yaris that over took him. We accept the findings of the assistant coroner who has recorded a narrative verdict.”
Afterwards Camilla said, “Thames Valley Police determined the outcome of this case in less than 17 minutes when they decided not to collect and retain evidence on the day of the incident. They then withheld critical information – the missing wing mirror glass – from the family whilst again failing to collect and retain evidence, which was their duty. After the police finally issued their substandard report 6.5 months after the incident, our concerns about the truthfulness of Mr Pratt and Ms Fox’s witness statements were dismissed and we were told that this would be for the coroner to examine during the inquest, which didn’t happen and new lies were told with impunity. The inquest into Simon’s death concluded without a single recommendation for the police to improve how they conduct investigations into cycling fatalities.”
The family would like to thank Ms Craciun and all the emergency medical staff who tried to save Simon’s life, as well as Martin Porter QC of 2 Temple Gardens and Lewis Ayre of Fieldfisher for their support in trying to get to the truth.