The son of two Bedford traffic police officers has denied falling asleep at the wheel and killing a much-loved grandmother.
Callum Wilkinson, 21, is said to have told bystanders at the fatal collision that he had “dropped off” just before his truck killed 56-year-old Sandra Nightingale.
However, in court this week he claimed not to have fallen asleep and denied a charge of causing death by dangerous driving.
The jury was told he has admitted a lesser charge of causing death by careless driving.
They heard Callum’s parents had brought him up to be very much aware of safety when driving, and he took their advice “incredibly seriously”.
His father Inspector Ewan Wilkinson has worked in the Bedford police traffic department for 27 years.
A self-employed tree surgeon, Callum insisted to the jury he simply could not remember what had happened during the collision almost two years ago on the A428 near Bromham. He was driving home from work when his Mazda pickup truck, with a trailer attached, ended up travelling in the wrong lane of the carriageway.
Prosecution barrister Nigel Ogbourne said experts found no external reasons for the vehicle crossing into the opposite lane.
Callum told the court: “I went straight over the roundabout, staying on the A428 and made my way up the hill and over the crest of the hill. That’s about all I remember.
“I remember going down the road as it levelled out. The next thing I remember is the shock of impact. It was like a shudder sent through my whole body and the whole vehicle.
It felt like complete darkness. “
He added: “All I could hear was things like glass shattering and metal crumpling around me. The first thing I saw was the wood chipper on its side in the middle of the road.
“At that time I didn’t really know what had gone on. Then I noticed a small blue car. I immediately ran over to it.
“I didn’t really have a clue. I knew something huge had happened because my vehicle was on the wrong side of the road. I knew it must have been my fault.”
Defence barrister Warwick Aleeson told Callum: “People reported you repeating ‘it’s my fault, it’s my fault.
t’s my fault’,” to which Wilkinson replied: “ I may have fallen asleep.
He added: “There was no other explanation, I couldn’t remember.”
Mr Ogbourne gave a list of witnesses who had been at the scene immediately after the crash, and had given evidence yesterday to the court that suggested the young tree surgeon had been asleep at the wheel.
“Why have you no memory? Was it because you fell asleep? You said there was complete darkness. You said ‘after the noise I opened my eyes’. Why were your eyes shut? Was it because you were asleep?”
Callum replied: “I don’t know. I may have said those things, I don’t know if I said any of these things.”
His mother Julie Wilkinson, said after the crash , when she was on her way to see her son, her husband Inspector Ewan Wilkinson phoned her, saying “The lady is dead Julie, the lady is dead.”
She said: “It was like a nightmare. I saw Callum sitting in the ambulance to the left with his head in his hands.”
Mrs Nightingale was a popular member of the community in Turvey. She was actively involved with All Saints church and a member of the amateur dramatic group.
Her death came as a ”huge shock”, said her family at the time.