Drug driver jailed for killing devoted parents of two girls in Cambridgeshire after falling asleep at the wheel
A drug driver has been jailed for killing two “utterly devoted” parents in Cambridgeshire after taking cocaine through the night and then falling asleep behind the wheel.
Luke Norton, 31, was sentenced to a total of eight years and eight months in prison, and disqualified from driving for 14 years and four months after his actions caused the deaths of Robert Bateman, 36, and his wife Paula Bateman , 35, from Manea.
The Bateman’s daughters, Lexi, 10, and 18-month-old Elizabeth, who were in the car at the time, suffered minor injuries.
A court heard Norton had visited a friend in Lincoln on Wednesday, September 2, and stayed up until the early hours taking drugs.
He left his friend’s house to start work at 7.45am on Thursday and drove his company’s Iveco Daily van, despite the lack of sleep.
Norton, of Nocton Park Road, in Nocton, Lincoln, worked in construction and was due to complete three jobs in the Cambridgeshire area that day.
He visited a house in St Ives to complete some work and was there until approximately 6pm.
He was scheduled to drive to Yaxley to carry out another job, but for some reason headed onto the A142 towards Chatteris.
On this road, he swerved into the opposite carriageway and directly into the path of the Bateman family’s oncoming Ford Focus.
Robert, known as Bob, was driving while Paula was in the rear passenger seat behind him.
The couple, who lived in Westfield Road, died at the scene.
Two brothers saw Norton’s van drive onto the wrong side of the road and directly into the path of the Ford Focus.
When emergency services arrived, Norton failed a roadside drugs test which indicated he had cocaine in his system.
He was taken to hospital as a precaution and an evidential specimen of blood was taken from that showed the levels of Benzoylecgonine - a product formed when cocaine is broken down - was more than 200 microgrammes per 100 millilitres of blood. The legal limit of this substance is 50 microgrammes.
At the hospital, officers noticed Norton was lethargic, unable to stay awake and was falling asleep on the hospital bed.
Scorched tin foil was also found on him, which Norton admitted was from previous drug use.
Following the hospital check, Norton was arrested on suspicion of two counts of causing death by dangerous driving, and driving whilst unfit through drink or drugs.
He claimed in a police interview that he must have fallen asleep at the wheel and offered this as the only explanation for swerving into the other carriageway.
Norton said he felt good to drive before the crash and did not remember feeling tired or sleepy before the impact.
He admitted “ongoing struggles” with drug addiction and taking class A drugs “on and off” for the last 10 years. He also admitted taking cocaine the night before the crash.
Norton told officers he took the drugs as he “needed something” to help him deal with a relationship break-up.
He said he expected to go to prison for a long time for what he had done.
Norton was subsequently charged with two counts of causing death by dangerous driving.
In a statement released after the collision, Bob and Paula’s family paid tribute to them, saying: “We are utterly devastated by this news. Bob and Paula were much-loved friends to many and will be missed by everyone who knew them.
“They were also utterly devoted parents. Bob was a much-loved son and father, while Paula was a much-loved daughter, sister and mother.”
In a victim impact statement , Paula’s mother, Angela Harper, said: “We have indescribable pain that will never go away and this pain has rippled out to the rest of my family, to Bob’s family, and so many fantastic friends. It is not just two lives that have been taken; the lives of the many that loved them have been ripped apart.”
Robert’s parents, John and Patricia Bateman, said: “Our world and the rest of families was totally shattered when police rang the doorbell.”
Earlier this month, Norton admitted the charges at Peterborough Crown Court.
He was sentenced today (October 16).
Sgt Mark Dollard, of the serious collision investigation unit, said: “Many people, myself included, would struggle to think of a more truly heartbreaking case than one where two little girls lost their parents in a collision they too were involved in.
“This is yet another case which highlights the utter devastation and life-changing impact someone can cause by getting behind the wheel after taking drugs. Had Norton not done so, Lexi and Elizabeth could have grown up with their loving parents by their side.
“It is beyond belief that in 2020 we still have to talk about the dangers of drink or drug driving; doing so truly shatters lives.
“Whilst Norton felt he was safe to drive; the true reality was that he was anything but. The risk he took will no doubt stay with him for life and this case should serve as a stark warning to others.
“People can help us make the roads of Cambridgeshire safer for everyone by confidentially reporting others they suspect of driving while under the influence.”
Cambridgeshire police operates a dedicated, confidential hotline for members of the public to report drink or drug driving.
The hotline - 0800 032 0845 - is available around the clock and gives people the chance to supply the police with information to help reduce the number of drink or drug drivers on the county’s roads.
For more information about drink or drug driving, the law and the dangers it can cause, as well as the confidential hotline, visit the force's dedicated web page on driving under the influence.