The considerable guilt of a man who killed a much-loved wife, mother and grandmother in a car smash in Ilkley will be his gravest punishment, a Crown Court judge has said.
Judge Robert Bartfield said Michel Vanderburgt would always have to live with his actions.
“You will wake up every day of your life and open your eyes with recollections of what you have done, and that will always be your greatest punishment,” he told him.
Vanderburgt, 38, was sentenced at Bradford Crown Court yesterday for causing the death of 67-year-old Jackie Emmott last September when his Opel car crashed into a Mercedes-Benz driven by Tony Emmott.
The Dutchman was visiting his English wife’s relatives when the accident happened near the Cow and Calf pub in Ilkley. The couple had been for lunch at the pub on September 16, and left at about 5pm, heading to Hull, to stay with relatives.
The court heard the couple were distracted by their satellite navigation system and Sally Walsh had phoned her family to say they would be arriving late. She did not notice her husband was on the wrong side of Moor Road.
Prosecuting Andrew Kershaw described the road as “challenging”.
When Vanderburgt left the pub, heading towards Menston, he was driving on the wrong side of the road. He went round two bends and along a 420 metre straight stretch of road which culminates in blind brow, which is where the near head-on crash occurred.
Mr Kershaw said experts estimated that the drivers would have had no more than two seconds to react after seeing each other.
“Evidently both drivers did see each other at the last minute and responded by pulling over to the left,” he said.
Investigators said the defendant, who has been driving for 19 years, was on the wrong side of the road for about 60 seconds.
Mr Kershaw said: “There are something like eight markings or signs which would have indicated to him that he was on the wrong side of the road, had he been paying careful attention.”
The barrister said it would be instinctive for Vanderburgt, who lives in The Netherlands, to drive on the right side of the road and that the heavy rain and issue with the satellite navigation system may have distracted him.
Mrs Emmott, who was in the passenger’s seat, suffered head and abdomen injuries which proved fatal.
The court also heard Mr Emmott, a former Bradford councillor, is still receiving medical care.
Vanderburgt suffered injuries including a broken rib leading to a collapsed lung and wounds to his right knee and hips. His wife’s hand and hips were injured.
Mitigating, Yunus Valli said his client was a decent, family man who knew the gravity of his actions which had destroyed and devastated many lives and was mortified by them.
“Whatever sentence your honour passes today, is going to be difficult for everybody, but hopefully today will mean that there will be some closure for both of the families in this case. life has to go on.”
A letter written by Vanderburgt to the judge said he was extremely sorry.
Sentencing, Judge Bartfield said he thought Vanderburgt had “switched off” while driving.
He added: “The reality of all this was that this much-loved wife, mother and grandmother, retired for only a month or so at the time, lost her life.”
He said the family was devastated by the loss of the “remarkable lady”.
A statement by Mrs Emmott’s daughter, Josephine, said her dearest wish was to have her mother back.
“That, of course, can never be,” the judge said. “There are no words, no sentence, nothing I can say or do that can retract the loss they’re suffering.”
Vanderburgt, who had pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving at a hearing at Bradford and Keighley Magistrates’ Court last month, was given a six-month jail term suspended for 12 months, a 12-month driving ban and ordered to pay £500 costs.
The judge said he had followed sentencing guidelines and had taken into account Vanderburgt’s immediate remorse, his early plea and that he suffered injuries, was not speeding and was not drink driving.