Luke Norton, 31, had visited a friend in Lincoln on Wednesday, September 2 where he had stayed up until the early hours of the morning taking cocaine.
Having been awake all this time, Norton left his friend’s house to start work at 7.45am on Thursday and drove his company vehicle – an Iveco Daily van – whilst knowingly deprived of sleep.
Norton, of Nocton Park Road, Nocton, Lincoln, worked in construction and on the day of the fatal collision was scheduled to complete three jobs in the Cambridgeshire area.
He visited a house in St Ives to complete some work and was there until approximately 6pm.
Norton was then scheduled to drive to Yaxley to carry out another job, but for reasons unknown he headed onto the A142 towards Chatteris.
Whilst driving on this road Norton’s van swerved into the opposite carriageway and directly into the path of an oncoming car. The car, a Ford Focus, contained a family of four – two parents and two children aged 10 and 18 months old.
As a result of the head-on collision Robert Bateman, 36 and known as Bob, and his wife Paula Bateman, 35, of Westfield Road, Manea, March, died at the scene. Robert was the driver of the Ford Focus and Paula was in the rear passenger seat behind Robert. Their daughter Lexi aged 10, and younger daughter, 18-month old Elizabeth, suffered minor injuries.
The collision was witnessed by two brothers who saw Norton’s van drive onto the wrong side of the road and directly into the path of the Ford Focus.
Emergency services arrived and Norton failed a roadside drugs test which indicated he had cocaine in his system. He was taken to hospital as a precaution, where an evidential specimen of blood was taken from him. The sample showed the levels of Benzoylecgonine, a cocaine breakdown product, were more than 200 microgrammes per 100 millilitres of blood. The legal limit is 50 microgrammes.
Whilst at the hospital officers noticed Norton was lethargic, unable to stay awake and was falling asleep on the hospital bed. Scorched tin foil was also found on him, which Norton admitted was from previous drug use. After the hospital check Norton was arrested on suspicion of two counts of causing death by dangerous driving, and driving whilst unfit through drink or drugs.
In a police interview Norton claimed he must have fallen asleep at the wheel and offered this as the only explanation as to why he swerved into the other carriageway. He said he felt good to drive before the crash and didn’t remember feeling tired or sleepy before the impact.
Norton claimed he had “ongoing struggles” with drug addiction and admitted taking class A drugs “on and off” for the last 10 years. He also admitted taking cocaine the night before the crash.
He told officers he took the drugs as he “needed something” to help him deal with a relationship break up. Norton said he expected to go to prison for a long time for what he had done. He was subsequently charged with two counts of causing death by dangerous driving.
In a statement released after the fatal collision, Bob and Paula’s family paid tribute to them, saying: “We are utterly devastated by this news. Bob and Paula were much-loved friends to many and will be missed by everyone who knew them.
“They were also utterly devoted parents. Bob was a much-loved son and father, while Paula was a much-loved daughter, sister and mother.”
Paula’s mum Angela said: “Two young girls are now the centre of my life due to a person so irresponsible that they caused this awful event which will affect us and many others for the rest of our lives. The girls will have no dad to walk them down the aisle, no mum to share girlie secrets and growing up talks, and no cooking tips for all those amazing cakes she baked.”
Norton admitted the charges at Peterborough Crown Court earlier this month. He was sentenced today, October 16, where he was handed a total of eight years and eight months in prison. He was also disqualified from driving for 14 years and four months.
Sergeant Mark Dollard, of the Serious Collision Investigation Unit, said: “Many people, myself included, would struggle to think of a more truly heartbreaking case than one where two little girls lost their parents in a collision they too were involved in.
“This is yet another case which highlights the utter devastation and life-changing impact someone can cause by getting behind the wheel after taking drugs. Had Norton not done so, Lexi and Elizabeth could have grown up with their loving parents by their side.
“It is beyond belief that in 2020 we still have to talk about the dangers of drink or drug driving; doing so truly shatters lives. Whilst Norton felt he was safe to drive; the true reality was that he was anything but. The risk he took will no doubt stay with him for life and this case should serve as a stark warning to others.
“People can help us make the roads of Cambridgeshire safer for everyone by confidentially reporting others they suspect of driving while under the influence.”
The force operates a dedicated, confidential hotline for members of the public to report drink or drug driving.
The hotline: 0800 032 0845 is available 24/7, and gives people the chance to supply the police with information to help reduce the number of drink or drug drivers on the county’s roads.
For more information about drink or drug driving, the law and the dangers it can cause, as well as the confidential hotline, visit the force's dedicated web page on driving under the influence.