Van driver who left children orphaned in crash which killed parents is jailed

Will Taylor
·News Reporter
·2 mins read
Robert and Paula Bateman died in the crash, while daughters Lexi and Elizabeth survived. (PA/Cambridgeshire Police)
Robert and Paula Bateman died in the crash, while daughters Lexi and Elizabeth survived. (PA/Cambridgeshire Police)

A drug-taking van driver who caused the deaths of two parents in a head-on crash while their young children were in the car has been jailed.

Luke Norton, of Nocton, Lincolnshire, was found to have an excess of benzoylecgonine in his blood – the main metabolite of cocaine – after the collision in Cambridgeshire on 3 September, which followed a drugs binge the night before, a court heard.

Robert Bateman, 36, and Paula Bateman, 35, died when their Ford Focus and Norton’s Iveco Daily van crashed on the A142 between Chatteris and Mepal just after 8pm.

Their daughters Lexi, 10, and 18-month-old Elizabeth survived.

Robert Bateman and his wife Paula, who were killed in a head-on car collision. (PA/Cambridgeshire Police)
Robert Bateman and his wife Paula, who were killed in a head-on car collision. (PA/Cambridgeshire Police)

Norton admitted causing the deaths of the parents by dangerous driving at Peterborough Crown Court on 2 October, but denied causing Lexi serious injuries.

The prosecution did not submit evidence for that charge, but said the child “suffered substantial bruising”.

The court heard on Friday that Norton was “completely disorientated” having taken a “large amount of cocaine and some heroin” the night before, and would “barely have slept at all”.

Phone records showed he made 15 calls between 10.17pm on 2 September and 7.45am on the day of the crash.

John Farmer, prosecuting, said Norton drove directly across the road and head on to the Ford.

“There’s only one explanation, a combination of absence of sleep, drugs, disorientation, and he disintegrates into falling asleep,” he said.

“There’s no steerage, there’s no braking.

“He just goes across the road, into the darkness, Mr Bateman had no time, hope or prospect of doing anything.”

Norton got out to get Lexi out of the car as the girl asked “is my dad still alive, please let my mum be alive”.

The Batemans had celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary just two weeks before the incident, the court heard.

Cambridgeshire Police said Norton told them he must have fallen asleep at the wheel, the court was told.

Robert Bateman was described as a “wonderful, caring” person by his mother Angela Harper.

She said Lexi “sat next to her dead father and watched her mother die” while still having compassion to look after her sister.

“Elizabeth will have no memories of her amazing parents, no knowledge of how fantastic they were and how lucky she was,” Harper said.

As he handed Norton an eight year and eight month jail term, Judge Sean Enright sentenced Norton to eight years and eight months behind bars and said: “You deprived two children of their parents.”

He said Norton caused Lexi “serious harm”, as he also disqualified the defendant from driving for 14 years and four months.

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