• Sat. Jun 15th, 2024

Jail for truck driver who ‘snuffed out’ cyclist Dr Ling Felce’s life on The Plain


Sep 8, 2022

A truck driver who was unlicensed, uninsured and under the influence ‘snuffed out’ the life of a promising research scientist.

Mum-of-two Dr Ling Felce, 35, was riding her bicycle ‘perfectly properly’ towards the city centre from St Clements when she stopped at the junction to The Plain roundabout shortly after 2.30pm on March 1.

Robert Whiting, 40, who was behind the wheel of a 32 tonne tipper truck owned by J&A Driveways, slowed to 5km/h as he approached the junction from the same direction as the cyclist. He did not stop and had accelerated to 20km/h when he struck Dr Felce.

The cyclist died ‘instantly’, prosecutor Christopher Hewertson told Oxford Crown Court this morning. A number of members of the public, including a Dr Loney who was recognised for her ‘public spiritedness’ by the judge, went to the woman’s aid.

Whiting made short calls to his father and employer before trying to use the truck’s mechanical arm to lift the vehicle off the ground and enable the cyclist to be freed. He told a police officer at the scene that he had not seen the cyclist.

He tested positive at the roadside for cocaine and blood tests later found he was eight times the limit for benzoylecgonine, a substance created when cocaine is broken down in the body.

Oxford Mail: Robert Whiting Picture: TVPRobert Whiting Picture: TVP

Mr Hewertson said Whiting’s provisional driving licence expired in 2002. He was not insured to drive the tipper truck and there was none of the required documentation in the cab or a driver’s card in the tachograph machine.

Jailing him for eight years, Judge Michael Gledhill QC said: "Dr Suet Ling Felce was a young wife, mother of two young children, beloved daughter of her parents. Sister, profoundly affected by her death, as were many of her friends.

"She was also a remarkable scientist, a research scientist working in fields such as biomedicine, vaccinology, researching into covid vaccines and also oncology.

"So impressed were her colleagues at Oxford University and at no doubt many other institutions, that they are setting up an award in her name to promote other young scientists with her abilities."

He added: "You have heard her husband read out his victim impact statement. That can only have moved everybody that has heard it as to the effects upon the family, himself, her children not only then and now but in the years to come.

"And you snuffed out her life in a matter of seconds."

Oxford Mail: Family members released this image of Dr Ling Felce Picture: TVPFamily members released this image of Dr Ling Felce Picture: TVP

Adrian Amer, mitigating, said his client’s remorse was genuine.

"Ling's life, of course, has been taken away. We all know that,” the defence barrister said.

"He still has his life and, ironically, through incarceration he has come to terms as to what he has done.

"He will have to live with this for the rest of his life, as indeed will his family who sit here also in court and grieve in their own way too."

In a moving victim personal statement read to the court, James Felce, 35, broke down as he chronicled the devastating impact his wife’s death has had on her family, friends and colleagues.

But he said it was his wife who had ‘lost the most’. Mr Felce added: "Nothing will ever be able to atone for what was taken from her. She was the best of us."

Whiting, of Brome Place, Barton, pleaded guilty shortly before his trial in August to causing death by dangerous driving.

He had 18 previous convictions, including for various driving matters. On the day of the crash, court documents show he was due before the city magistrates for a number of allegations, including driving a VW Golf without insurance on Barton Village Road and Gurl Close.

As part of the sentence, Judge Gledhill disqualified him from driving for five years with an extension period of four years to cover the amount of time he is expected to serve behind bars. He must pass an extended retest before he can drive again.

A Dr Loney, who was among those who went to Dr Felce’s aid at the scene, was awarded £500 from the public funds for her ‘public spiritedness’.