A driver standing trial for causing the fatal collision which killed his girlfriend has told a court he would not drink less than the three and a half pints of lager he claims he consumed before the tragedy if he was given the opportunity to turn the clock back.
Taking the stand at Chester Crown Court on Thursday (October 1), 22-year-old Richard Bromley claimed he was ‘capable’ to drive himself and his teenage girlfriend Claudia Williams after drinking over a period of around three hours during a family meal at the Old Trooper pub in Christleton on June 24, 2013.
At around 9.40pm that night, Bromley’s Vauxhall Corsa crashed into a tree on School Lane in Guilden Sutton.
Miss Williams, who was 19-years-old, passed away a short time after, while Bromley, of Daniell Way in Great Boughton, sustained minor injuries.
The court heard that Bromley, an electrical engineering apprentice, had met Miss Williams when she visited his place of work, The Twirl of Hay, in May 2012 and they had been in a relationship for around one year.
He said: “I remember catching eye contact with her and I just thought she was the most beautiful girl in the world.”
Bromley recalled how on June 24, 2013, he picked his girlfriend up from her mother’s house on Pipers Lane in Hoole at about 5pm but she was upset, saying she had fallen out with her mum but would not tell him what their disagreement had been about.
He said they then spent around half an hour driving around Hoole and Vicars Cross looking at properties with rental signs.
“That is something we always dreamed of, to spend the rest of our lives together and imagine having our own place together and our own family,” he said.
Bromley broke down in the dock when he was handed a letter which Miss Williams had written to him a few months before she died.
He explained that she used to write him letters and hide them for him to find later.
An extract was read to the jury in which she said: “I really hope I spend the rest of my life with you and we get our own place. It would be so perfect.”
The couple used to meet Miss Williams’ father Nigel Williams and her two younger sisters most Monday evenings for a meal. Bromley said they arrived at the Old Trooper between 5.30pm and 6pm.
He and Miss Williams had two rounds of drinks by the time her family arrived – two pints of Carling for him and two large glasses of wine for her.
Once they were all seated at a table, Bromley said he went to the bar to buy a round of drinks for all five of them, including another pint of lager for him and another large wine for Miss Williams.
Girlfriend stormed out
Explaining to the court that he was ‘pacing’ himself, he said: “I knew I was driving later and I did not want to have too much to drink.”
After ordering food, they all got a bowl of salad from the salad bar.
But Miss Williams ‘stormed out’, he said, after an ‘argument about something’ with one of her sisters.
Bromley, having by now consumed the third pint, went to look for her shortly after, to no avail.
Mr Williams then went outside to look for her, and Bromley started to eat his main meal.
When Mr Williams couldn’t locate her either, Bromley returned outside and found her on a raised seating area, where she was ‘tearful’ but refused to tell him what was wrong.
He said he spent ten minutes trying to convince her to rejoin them inside but she would not, so Mr Williams went out to talk to her while Bromley finished his meal.
Mr Williams came back after around 10 or 15 minutes and told Bromley he should take his daughter home as she was upset and wanted to leave.
The trial earlier heard that forensic consultant pathologist Dr Brian Rogers found 189mg of alcohol in 100ml of her blood, more than twice the legal alcohol limit for drivers in England.
Bromley did not feel intoxicated
Bromley said he had drunk another half pint by this point, but did not feel intoxicated and nobody expressed any concern about him driving.
Before they set off, he said they discussed where they would stay that night as they had agreed to stay at his parents’ house, but she had changed her mind.
He took her back to her mum’s house so she could collect some of her belongings to take to his, having reverted to their original plan.
When she got back in the car, however, he said she was crying and refused to tell him what was wrong.
She then decided she would spend the night at her grandparents’ house in Guilden Sutton so they headed in that direction.
Bromley said she was still upset when they reached the village and told him in a raised voice to stop asking her what the matter was.
Just after he said he slowed down to 30mph in accordance with School Lane’s speed limit, he said Miss Williams changed her mind again and wanted to go back to her mum’s.
He said no, as he was ‘a bit fed up at this point’ and because they were only about 30 seconds from her nan’s home.
“Because she was so upset I thought we should just get there and get her to calm down,” he explained.
Bromley claims that he had his eyes on the road ‘the whole time’ and both hands on the steering wheel.
But he said that just after a bend in the road, Miss Williams swore at him and shoved his left forearm with both her hands.
“It was totally unexpected,” he said.
“It made me jolt straight away to the left. I hit the curb straight away and just lost control of the car immediately.
“It all happened in such a quick movement. Before I knew it, we crashed into the tree.”
During cross-examination, prosecution counsel Benjamin Myers asked Bromley whether he was blaming Miss Williams for the crash, to which the defendant replied: “I am not blaming her for this.”
Mr Myers asked him whether it was ‘usual’ for him to drink and drive. Bromley said it was not.
Three and a half pints
He also questioned him as to whether he thought it was wrong to drive after drinking the amount of alcohol he claims to have done.
Bromley said: “I thought it was okay. I felt fine. I did not think it was a problem to drink three and a half pints.”
He rejected Mr Myers’ contention that alcohol had any role to play in the tragic events of June 24, 2013.
He added that he would not drink less if he could turn the clock back, as ‘that had nothing to do with how the accident happened’.
“The accident happened as a result of a completely unexpected push,” he said.
He also claimed that he was driving around 30mph when the crash happened, having reduced acceleration and glanced at his speedometer when the speed limit dropped.
Bromley, who was visibly distressed at times during his evidence, told the jury: “I wish there was something that I could have done to have avoided it.
“It was so instant. There was nothing that I could have done. I am absolutely devastated by what has happened.
“I miss her more than anything in the world and love her from the bottom of my heart and will love her for the rest of my life.”
Bromley denies two charges of causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs.
The trial continues.