The trial of a man accused of knocking down and killing a four-year-old girl in his van will begin today.
Peter Williams, 62, denies causing the death by dangerous driving of Esme Weir in Gladstone Road, Neston.
The little girl was playing near Stanney Fields Park when she was struck by a van at around noon on January 15 last year.
Our colleagues at the Liverpool Echo will be bringing you live updates of today's proceedings.
There is no measurement of his speed. He estimated his speed to be about 10mph. This is considered to be likely.
The speed of Esme and her mum is estimated at 1.8 to 2.2 metres per second.
It is not known exactly where they were when he entered the road.
Two scenarios have been presented. One that he passed them and as he pulled in Esme passed the van before being hit by it. The second that she was in front of his van throughout the incident.
The Highway Code states you must not drive on pavements unless to gain lawful access to a property or in the case of an emergency.
That concludes today’s evidence. Thanks for following my updates.
Mr Mills says he will now read to the jury some facts that are agreed between the prosecution and the defence.
He says Esme was four-years-old and died from multiple severe traumatic injuries involving the defendant’s vehicle.
She was wearing all pink clothing, coat, top and tights, bar her socks and shoes. The Disney Frozen scooter had no sign of damage. Esme was 3ft 10in.
The defendant was driving a white Ford Transit pick-up van. It had not sustained any damage.
Gladstone Road is a narrow, two-way residential street with vehicles parked on either side. It has a 20mph speed limit.
Williams was delivering wood from Neston Building Supplies to a customer living in a home in Gladstone Road.
He was travelling down the road as Esme and her mum were walking along it.
He drove into a gap, his nearside wheels mounting the pavement, his van colliding with her and his front nearside wheel driving over her.
Mr MacDonald asks what were the officer’s duties that day. He says he was acting as a response officer for Neston, filling in for the area’s usual officer.
He was familiar with Gladstone Road. He agrees it was a relatively narrow road.
He agrees the driver of the van was “clearly in shock”.
PC Wakeling remembers the driver saying “the girl had run out in front of him”.
Mr MacDonald asks if he is positive about this. He says he is.
He saw a man, the defendant, walking around. Mr Mills asks how he seemed.
“Very shaken. I thought he was in shock,” he says.
He also saw Steven Leadbetter. He was looking angrily towards Williams.
PC Wakeling asked Mr Leadbetter to step back and keep away.
He says Williams told him “he was driving along and a little girl ran out in front of him”.
The officer says he took that on face value and wrote it down contemporaneously.
He did not invite him to look at it and sign it.
PC Wakeling also spoke to Mr Leadbetter. He sought support from other officers calling for backup and a specialist road policing officer. He taped off the Hinderton Road end of Gladstone Road and his vehicle was a physical barrier at the other end.
A colleague arrived and they started dealing with Jessica Weir was who very distressed.
They cordoned off the other end of the road. He made notes regarding the vehicles at the scene. Both of the van’s nearside wheels were on the pavement.
PC Michael Wakeling
PC Michael Wakeling will now give evidence. He was on duty for Cheshire Police.
He was on patrol in Neston that day and had been on duty since 7am.
At midday he received a radio message informing him of a serious collision on Gladstone Road in Neston. He was on the high street a short distance away. He arrived within a minute or so.
Mr Mills says initially he was not sure where the collision had taken place. He agrees.
He says he parked around 30m from the junction with Hinderton Road. He saw an ambulance and got out and walked towards it. He could see paramedics working on a child in the ambulance.
One of the paramedics looked very concerned. He realised it was a serious incident.
The paramedic was saying they had to get to Arrowe Park Hospital now.
Mr MacDonald says it was a narrow road. She agrees. She does not know if the speed limit was 20mph or 30mph. She thought it was 30mph.
To get past down the road, one vehicle has to allow another to pass and move into a gap between parked vehicles.
Mr MacDonald suggests the van indicated. Ms Santana says she did not see the van indicate.
He suggests the van stopped before it manoeuvred into the gap. Then started again.
She does not recall this. She was busy looking at a sat nav at the same time.
Ms Santana had no idea what was going on. She agrees it was “bizarre”.
Mr MacDonald says she thought the driver was angry. But she had music on and did not hear what was said.
She saw another man who also appeared in a “heightened state” he says. She agrees. She did not know why.
Ms Santana agrees she looked in her rearview mirror and saw a woman “cradling and rocking a child in her arms”.
Mr MacDonald asks if she had seen either the woman or the girl before she looked back in her mirror. She says she had not.
Justice Davis asks whether when she stopped for the van and checked her sat nav, was she looking out for pedestrians.
She says she was not particularly because the road was so blocked with cars. She was just waiting for the van.
Ms Santana says she did not know if the driver was pulling in so he could park or to let her pass.
Ms Santana says the van came towards her and swung in “quite rapidly” to a space on her right hand side.
She says: “I felt the manoeuvre he did into that space he did really fast.”
The witness says she did not see him indicate and she did not see him stop first.
She says the van juddered to a halt. He got out left his door open and started pacing up and down. He was waving his hands above his head. She had music on and could not hear what he was saying but thought he was angry.
Ms Santana says another man looked upset and was touching his head.
She felt scared and felt she needed to get away. When the driver moved to the front of the van
The witness says she saw a lady cradling her child in her arms.
She thought maybe there was a domestic dispute or argument. She was not sure at the time it was a road traffic collision.
Ms Santana discovered afterwards on her return journey that something serious had happened. She saw a police car and went to speak to them and give her details.
The next witness is Rachel Santata, who was driving a black Mercedes car.
Mr Mills says she was attending a function at the nearby civic hall. She agrees.
Ms Santana did not know the area and was using her sat nav. She turned into Gladstone Road from Hinderton Road.
She could see cars parked on both sides of the road. There was room for only one vehicle to pass.
The witness saw a white Ford Transit van travelling towards her with wood on it. She saw Neston Building Supplies written on it. One of them had to stop.
She went over a speed bump and stopped. She waited for the van to come through so she could pass.
Mr Leadbetter agrees it was clear to him the driver had “no idea” what had happened.
He says when he told Williams he said “what little girl?”
He is asked if he made any comment about his delivery of wood not being on that day.
Mr Leadbetter cannot recall. He says it was not in his mind. There was a lot going on, he says.
He says: “The delivery of the wood was probably the least thing in my mind.”
The judge asks him about his evidence about the shift in momentum of the van after it first mounted the kerb.
He says there was a significant change in the engine sound. He says he does not drive but it was as if the driver was accelerating and changing gear to get over the obstacle of the kerb and move forwards.
That concludes his evidence. There will now be a 20-minute break.
He said in his statement that van was “swooping” towards the opposite kerb.
He described it this morning as going in at a substantial angle.
He did not mean by swooped it was going at high speed. He is describing the movement of the van he says.
Mr MacDonald suggests the van stopped, then went onto the pavement and went forward and that it made this manoeuvre in one movement.
Mr Leadbetter remembers the van went onto the pavement, significantly slowed down and he heard the engine rev before it pulled up onto the pavement and went forward.
He agrees it is possible that this was one movement rather than two.
He said in his statement he did not recall seeing the van indicate. He assumed it would pull into a gap opposite his house.
Mr Leadbetter says it could have indicated. He did not notice it.
Esme and her mum had their backs to the van.
Mr MacDonald asks about what part of the path they were walking on. He suggests the girl was nearer the kerb. Mr Leadbetter cannot say.
The lawyer suggests the van stopped. He cannot recall him stopping. He just recalls him pulling in.
He asks it is possible the van stopped. Mr Leadbetter says it could be.
Mr MacDonald asks for him to be given a copy of his witness statement from January 2016.
A police officer wrote it and he agreed and signed it.
He said in the statement she was walking towards Hinderton Road. Mr MacDonald asks if she was already in Gladstone Road. He says she was not. She was approaching the junction with Tannery Lane and Gladstone Road.
He said in his statement after he turned he returned to Gladstone Road, where he was walking down his side of the road. Esme and her mum were walking down on the other side of the road.
He was outside a house with a ‘for sale’ sign. As he was in the vicinity of these houses the van drove past him.
Mr MacDonald said it would have been convenient to park as close to his house as possible, but it wasn’t possible as there were cars parked on his side of the road. It therefore parked on the opposite side of the road. He agrees.
At this stage he had no concerns over Williams’ driving.
Mr MacDonald will now question the witness.
Mr Leadbetter says he got around 20 metres up Tannery Lane when he saw the van coming down Raby Park Road, which becomes Tannery Lane.
He could see the wood on the van and assumed it was his delivery.
Mr MacDonald says in his witness statement he said when the van got into Gladstone Road it wasn’t travelling particularly quickly. Mr Leadbetter agrees.
He repeats that the van stopped at the junction to let Esme and her mum cross the road.
Mr Leadbetter says you could tell from where Esme was “there was a possibility he could have hit her”. He says this was because of how sharply he turned.
The witness says as the van turned sharpy, it came to a stop, the front of the vehicle was already on the path, the rear wheel hit the kerb, he went back slightly, put it in gear, Mrs Weir had shouted “stop” and he started to run or jog.
Mr Mills asks why. He says if you hear shouting and knew she was there it was obvious what was happened.
Mr Leadbetter says: “He just seemed oblivious to her being there really.”
He says: “I said ‘you’ve just hit that little girl and he said ‘what little girl?’”
He tried to help, shouted his partner to come out and took Esme in the house then rang 999.
Mr Leadbetter crossed onto Tannery Lane and says he was walking up the road and saw the Ford Transit van coming down the road.
He says the van went past him, he turned, rang his partner, and saw the van slowed to let Esme and her mum cross the road, to the opposite side of the road to his house.
Mr Leadbetter says “it was just a normal day” and she was on her scooter a few feet ahead of her mum.
He says the van stopped to let them cross and a car coming the opposite direction then moved off again.
Mr Leadbetter says: “He turned onto the path quite sharply.”
The next witness is resident Steven Leadbetter. He lives on Gladstone Road.
He had been to Neston Building Supplies earlier that day, at around 11.15, to get some wood for some work he was doing at home.
He arranged for the wood to be delivered within an hour. He went home then to the bank at around 11.45.
His partner Victoria was at home waiting for the delivery.
Mr Leadbetter noted the time because he saw some family on the street in Tannery Lane.
He was heading up towards Tannery Lane.
The witness says he saw Esme and her mum coming down under the railway bridge on Brook Street. He crossed over into Tannery Lane.
He says Esme was on a scooter. She was a bit ahead of her mum. “Not much” he says.
Mr Mills asks if he noticed anything particular at the time. He did not.
Mr MacDonald says she said they were in a hurry. He asks at any stage if they stopped. That was at the top on the right hand side she says before they crossed onto the left hand side. They did not stop again she says as they walked to Hinderton Road.
Mr MacDonald asks if they went in any gardens. They did not she says. They were going straight down.
He asks if she saw anyone else. She does not recall noticing anybody.
Mr MacDonald asks about their position. He says she said there were a lot of cars parked. SHe agrees.
He says it is “relatively narrow” residential road. She agrees.
He asks about how difficult it was to see Esme. She says Esme was tall for her age but it would be difficult to see her over a car. She says it would depend on the type of car and how high up the driver was in the van.
Mrs Weir says there was no reason for Esme to stop and she knew what she was doing.
She saw the van pull in. She can’t be sure if it stopped.
Mr MacDonald says she recalls the van pulling into a gap between some vehicles. She agrees.
He says the van was going relatively slowly. She agrees.
Mr MacDonald says as the van began to turn in she was behind it.
Mrs Weir says Esme was slightly behind the van at first, but as the van began to turn in, she was in front of it.
She agrees the van straightened up to park parallel. Esme by this stage was just in front of the van.
He asks whether it was as the van had straightened up that it hit Esme. She says it hit her, then went back slightly, straightened up and drove over her.
That concludes her evidence.
Alistair McDonald, QC, defending, will now ask questions of the witness.
He is asking Mrs Weir about the route she and Esme took when they left Sainsbury’s.
They came to the junction of Brook Street and Gladstone Road. Tannery Lane is to the left, Gladstone Road to the right.
They paused at the junction. She saw a Meriva car coming up Gladstone Road he says. Mrs Weir agrees. Hinderton Road is at the bottom of Gladstone Road. That is where she was heading.
Mr MacDonald says she says normally she would have crossed the road diagonally.
She agrees but says a blue Meriva car was coming down the road and the van was waiting for it.
He asks is she sure it was the same van. She says: “Definitely.”
She says they had already crossed. “The car came past me.” She says the van paused and the driver said “you go across”.
“What have you done?”
She says she next saw the van when it drove past her. She says: “I didn’t think anything of it at the time.”
She says: “Esme was going ahead, the van came round and took her out and went up the kerb.”
She says Esme was ahead of the van. She started to run. “I realised what could happen.”
“I tried to hit the van to see if I could get them in time. I dropped my bags and ran.”
She says she hit the back of the van.
Mr Mills asks if she saw the collision. She says she did. She says it hit the wheel at the back of the scooter which made her fall. She says: “Then the wheel went right over her.”
Mrs Weir says she could not get there in time. She says when he got out he looked “confused”.
She says: “I said ‘what have you done?’ He just got out and said ‘I didn’t see her’.”
Van driver saw them
Mrs Weir says they normally went diagonally across the road but because there was a car coming and the van they went to the right hand side of the road.
She says an old lady was driving the Vauxhall Meriva car. She says the van had come from Tannery Lane. She says the van had to wait for the car.
Mrs Weir says the car passed them. She waited to cross. She says: “The van stopped and saw us and waved us across the road. I said ‘thank you’ and waved.”
Jessica Weir, Esme's mum
Jessica Weir, Esme’s mum, is now going to give evidence.
Justice Davis says she can take a break whenever she needs if she finds this too distressing.
Mr Mills says Esme was due in preschool for midday. She would normally have been with the her cousin but she was ill.
Esme and her mum had been watching TV then went to the shops on Brook Street. She agrees.
She was walking and Esme was on a scooter, she had for her birthday in September 2015.
Mr Mills asks what she was like riding it. “Really good,” her mum says.
She says Esme was “always” cautious of traffic and would stop at road junctions. It was her third scooter.
They were running a little late in Sainsbury’s. Mrs Weir says she told her “come on, we have to be quick, we’re going to be late” and she hurried up.
They left Sainsbury’s at around 11.47. She checked on her phone before leaving.
It was a market day in Neston. They made their way through the market and down onto Brook Street.
As they went down Brook Street they were on the left side of the road.
Mr Mills asks how she used the scooter. Normally her mum says.
They went under a bridge and reached the junction of Brook Street and Gladstone Road.
Mr Mills attended a police station for voluntary interview. He said there was room on the pavement, he indicated and looked and it was clear.
He said he was almost on the pavement when the lady shouted. He said he was not under time pressure. He said he had delivered there before. He said his manoeuvre was common sense so other vehicles could pass.
He estimated his speed at about 10 miles per hour and said he was in second gear.
Williams said: “There was no-one there.”
He said he still thought to this day where the child came from as there was no-one there.
Williams said he had held a driving licence for 42 years.
There is no allegation he was using a mobile phone, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, had any medical issues or was tired.
He said he could not remember allowing Esme and her mum to cross the road before this happened.
He says two logical scenarios could have led to the collision. The first is the defendant drives past the pair and parks, with Esme coming past and striking the van as it parked.
The second he says is her being in front of the van as it came down the road and the van striking her as it pulled in.
Mr Mills says the prosecution expert favours the latter, the defence expert the first.
The lawyer says Esme would have been in his field of view as he drove along the road in the first scenario. He says the defence say he may have been looking at house numbers and she may have been obscured from view due to her height.
Williams’ vehicle, a white Ford Transit pickup van was examined. It was in fine working condition with no evidence of any mechanical failure that may have resulted in a loss of control.
The court hears there was no sign of any collision on the van. Mr Mills says again that the scooter was not damaged either.
He says Gladstone Road is a normal single carriageway residential street.
Mr Mills says some part of the defendant’s van’s front nearside corner collided with Esme and then the front nearside wheel travelled over her.
Paramedics and police
The driver of a black Mercedes, Rachel Santana, had earlier given way to the van.
Mr Mills says she saw the van move “swift” and “a bit fast” into the gap between parked cars. She did not realise what was going on.
Paramedics arrived at around midday. They tried life support measures but Esme’s heart had already stopped and she had an obvious head injury.
She was taken to Arrowe Park Hospital where doctors tried to treat her but she died from multiple severe traumatic injuries.
A police officer who attended the scene said Williams looked pale and appeared to be “in a daze and a state of shock”.
He said Mr Leadbitter was angry and directing his anger to the defendant.
He spoke to Williams and another officer arrived and spoke to Williams in his vehicle.
Williams was taken away from the scene. Mr Mills says: “He was clearly in a traumatised state. He did keep asking how the little girl was.” He says an officer had to tell him she was dead.
The court hears Esme was 3ft 10in.
The court hears the incident was witnessed by the customer of Williams’ company, Steven Leadbitter.
He described the van “swooping” towards the kerb. At the time he could not see Esme but could see her mum.
He said he couldn’t see why the van did this as there was more than enough space to pull up by the kerb.
He heard her mum shout “no” and ran over to help. He said he saw the van roll back slightly, heard the engine sound change and then it move forward.
He said the driver seemed “oblivious” and moved forward six or seven feet before coming to a rest.
He says when he told the driver “you just hit the little girl” he said “what little girl?”
He took Esme into his house and called 999.
Mr Mills says they left the Sainsbury’s at 11.47, the mum said to Esme they were running a little late.
They went down Gladstone Road and saw one car, a Vauxhall Meriva, and according to the mum Williams’ van stopped to let this car pass as they crossed the road, meaning he could have seen them.
The mum saw the van pull into a gap between parked cars. She said Esme was further back going quite fast pushing the scooter with one leg. She said the van came up on the pavement with one wheel and hit her knocking her onto the pavement.
She said she realised what would happen, ran over and shouted no and hit the van in the hope the driver might hear her but she saw the wheel go over Esme.
She recalled him getting out of the van and saying “I didn’t see her”.
Esme was born on September 16, 2011. She was four years and four months old.
She was due in at pre-school for midday. Normally she began that day with playgroup.
Esme and her mum spent the morning at home. Jessica Weir was pregnant and needed to go the shops. She went to the Sainsbury’s on Brook Street.
Esme was on a scooter she’d had since September 2015. She’d had two previously and according to her mum was good at riding them and knew not to go in the road and stop for traffic.
She was blonde and wearing all pink clothes. She was brightly dressed.
Mr Mills says police carried out a reconstruction using a measuring rod. He says details are in the jury bundle.
He says the scooter was not damaged in the incident.
Mr Mills is now taking the jury through photographs of the scene.
The incident was analysed by road traffic collision investigators for both the prosecution and the defence.
He says Jessica Weir was coming along Brook Street and crossed over to the side of Gladstone Road and walked along to where the collision took place.
“I don’t know where she came from.”
Mr Mills says “straight after” the incident Williams spoke to a police officer. He says this was within half an hour of the incident.
He says Williams told the officer he was making a delivery but the road was “so narrow” so he pulled up on the pavement.
Williams said there was “no-one there” at the time but that he heard a scream “you’ve knocked my child over” and saw a woman next to a child lying on the pavement.
He told police the mum picked the child up and carried her to a house. He said: “I don’t know where she came from.”