Lorry driver - serial killer of London cyclist and pedestrian - pleads guilty to dangerous driving

LCC, along with the families of a cyclist and a pedestrian killed by lorry drivers, have called for a full review of police procedures and Crown Prosecution Service policy after lorry driver Joao Lopes (pictured above) pleaded guilty to killing a second person on London's roads.

In February 2009 while driving a 32-tonne tipper lorry Joao Lopes pulled away from the lights at a pedestrian crossing in Notting Hill, and then ran over and killed cyclist Eilidh Cairns.

The police admit their investigation of this killing fell far below acceptable standards: at the time of the crash, they failed to check Lopes' eyesight to see if he should have been wearing glasses.

It was not until May that year that police checked his eyesight and discovered he shouldn't be have been driving without glasses.

His licence was temporarily revoked, and he was later charged for driving with defective vision.

After pleading guilty in October 2010, he was fined £200 plus £150 costs.

Kingston magistrates let him keep his licence, with three penalty points, but he faced no further legal action for killing Eilidh Cairns.

Lopes kills again

Less than a year later, Lopes was back on the road driving for a different employer, and he killed again.

In June 2011, at a pedestrian crossing on Marylebone Road, Lopes moved off in his 32-ton lorry and ran over pedestrian Nora Gutmann, who was returning home after a visit to the dentist

Nora, 97, had lived in London for over 60 years after surviving the Holocaust.

According to one report, Lopes was not wearing his glasses at the time of the crash.

This week at Isleworth Crown Court Lopes pleaded guilty to causing the death of Nora Gutmann by dangerous driving and also to falsifying his tachograph records (the machine that counts the number of hours he's worked in his lorry).

It's unusual for a driver to plea guilty to death by dangerous driving without trying to plea to a lesser charge instead.

The evidence was that he deliberately interferred with his tachograph so that it would not record the extra hours and trips he was making in the killer lorry.

Having pleaded guilty, Lopes has now been remanded in custody until sentencing in August.

Authorities failed victims

LCC campaigns officer Charlie Lloyd said: "Many questions remain unanswered:

"How could Lopes get away with altering his tachograph, deliberate criminality that endangered every other road user, without his employer knowing?

"Why did the coroner examining Eilidh Cairns death and the police investigators say that nothing could be done to prevent similar fatalities happening again?

"Why was Lopes given his licence back after clearly being incapable of safely controlling a large lorry?"

The police recently carried out a second investigation of Eilidh Cairn's death after which they recommended he be prosecuted for that crime as well as for killing Nora Gutmann.

However, the Crown Prosecution Service failed to pursue this prosecution.

In two other recent cases the prosecution authorities also failed to bring to court lorry drivers who killed cyclists.

Investigations into the deaths of Svitlana Tereschenko and Dan Cox both showed evidence of lack of care by the drivers.

The lorry driver who killed Dan Cox admitted deliberately driving over the advanced stop line and also failed to replace a mirror that would have helped him see more of the road.

The driver who killed Svitlana Tereschenko failed to see her approach on the left-hand side of his lorry while he was stationary, or to see her when he moved away.

He was in the middle of a long hands-free phone call when Tereschenko was killed, and some witnesses say he failed to indicate left.

Families of victims demand change

Nick Alexandra, grandson of Nora Gutmann (pictured left) said:

"How it is possible that the courts failed to take Eilidh's tragic death seriously enough, leaving Lopes driving a lorry and able to kill another Londoner?

"The GLA and the courts need to rethink their responsibility and the way they deal with pedestrian and cycling safety in London."

Kate Cairns, the sister of Eilidh (above right), released this statement:

"For three years I have battled the whole way through an inadequate system which assumes the guilt of the cyclist, and which is rife with incompetence and complacency and which has failed us all on so many levels.

"There was no interest in carrying out a proper investigation nor in finding witnesses. The police report was riddled with assumptions, omissions and conclusions contrary to evidence, obvious even to a layperson but there was no interest from the CPS in questioning it.

"Only after the death of someone else, three years later, have the police acknowledge the report was inadequate and reviewed the case of Eilidh’s death. 

"Then there is an absolute failure of the coronial process to be meaningful in anyway when the coroner refuses to put her mind to ways to avoid similar deaths. 

"Nora Gutman did not have to die; Lopes did not have to lose his freedom, if the  professionals had done their jobs.

"All I wanted was the truth so that other deaths could be avoided and other families did not have to suffer.

"We have not had justice today, clearly there are many more drivers like Lopes on our streets.

"Their employers need to take responsibility and train them and incentive them, and comply with legislation and provide the tools and equipment to protect everyone from their business activities.

"These trucks are lethal killers, not designed for our urban streets. Those presenting the most risk must manage that risk. Whilst they profit, innocent people die."