Gareth Robbins, 33, told how his “playful workplace banter” ended in tragedy when colleague Paul Heenan, 40, rode his bike to workin Ebbw Vale, Gwent
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A prankster driver today walked free from court after accidentally killing his workmate in a joke over cycling to work for the first time.
Gareth Robbins, 33, told how his “playful workplace banter” ended in tragedy when colleague Paul Heenan, 40, rode his bike to work.
Cyclist Mr Heenan died after he grabbed onto Robbins’ Peugeot 208 as the pair were leaving work for the day.
A court heard father-of-two Mr Heenan had been riding close to the car so he could be towed by the vehicle in a “high jinks” joke.
He suffered “catastrophic injuries” when the car allegedly accelerated while he was holding on – and he was thrown into the air.
Robbins was today cleared of causing death by dangerous driving – but admitted causing his death by careless driving.
Robbins said he referred to his colleague as “Skipper” and “Guvnor” at the Yuasa battery factory in Ebbw Vale, Gwent.
He said: “I’d like to think we were more than colleagues”.
Cardiff Crown Court heard father-of-two Mr Heenan has started riding to work to keep fit after his gym closed during lockdown.
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Robbins said: “We have never known Paul to cycle into work.
“There was jesting about him cycling because of the gyms.
“I said ‘Why are you cycling in? You’re too old to cycle in.’
“It was just laughing amongst friends kind of thing.”
The court heard Robbins had been behind the wheel when his workmate was riding his bike in front of him in April 2020.
He said: “He was just cycling slow in front of me on the narrow road. I just thought he was joking about.
“As you come to the opening, widening of the road Paul was still cycling in front of me so I tried to go around Paul to make my way out.
“Paul was weaving like an S-shape when the road opened up when I tried to overtake.”
The court heard Robbins knocked “joker” Mr Heenan from the bike while driving at speeds of between 24mph and 29mph.
Prosecutor Eugene Egan said: “The defendant drove very close to the deceased who was cycling along normally in the roadway with the kerb to his left.
“The front passenger window on the Peugeot was open and the deceased appears to have grabbed on to the B-pillar of the car.
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“The cyclist had his left hand on the handlebar and his right hand out and he was holding on to the pillar of the vehicle where the front passenger seat belt area is.
“He was, in effect, being taken along.”
Mr Egan said that at this point Robbins: “Accelerated and he knew that the deceased was clinging on to the side of his car and defendant reached a speed of between 24 and 29mph.
“That is a very dangerous thing for a driver to do.”
The court heard the handle bar made contact with the car causing Mr Hennan to lose his balance. Mr Heenan, who was not wearing a helmet, suffered a brain injury and died at the scene.
Mr Egan added: “Playful workplace banter had spilled over with tragic consequences.”
Robbins, of Ebbw Vale, denied causing death by dangerous driving but admitted a lesser charge of causing death by careless driving.
Robbins has no previous convictions. He was danced until May when he is due to be sentenced for causing death by careless driving