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Keith pharmacy worker killed after driver was distracted by hands-free phone call

By Court Reporter

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A YOUNG mother on her way to work in Keith was killed by an Elgin driver making a bluetooth mobile phone call while driving to his work as a care assistant in the same town.

Inverness Sheriff Court heard today that Robert Macdonald was on a hands-free call in his Audi A3 to his wife, Deborah, on April 28, 2020 when he collided with the rear of 28 year old Leigh-Anne Wood's Peugeot 208.

Leigh-Anne Wood (28), from Elgin, who died after her car was hit from behind and collided with another vehicle.
Leigh-Anne Wood (28), from Elgin, who died after her car was hit from behind and collided with another vehicle.

Her car was pushed to the other side of the single carriageway and then collided with an oncoming tipper van, propelling it backwards.

Leigh-Anne, the eldest of four siblings brought up in Dufftown, died instantly from serious head and neck injuries and a passenger in the tipper truck suffered a broken knee cap.

Macdonald of St Andrew's Square, Elgin, appeared before Sheriff Robert Frazer, represented by solicitor Grant Daglish, and admitted causing

the death of the keen dancer and university Honours graduate and the serious injury of Edward Dunbar by careless driving.

Sentence was deferred until May 27 for a background report, bail was continued and he was disqualified from driving in the interim.

Fiscal depute Niall Macdonald told the court the accident occurred near an overtaking lane on the A96 between Fochabers and Keith in an area known locally as "the Dramlachs."

It was close to a lay-by where a van was parked. Mr Macdonald said that the 32 year old accused was just finishing his call to his wife who said she heard a "thud.

The prosecutor added: "He had not been maintaining proper, adequate observations on the road ahead of him nor in particular to the Peugeot being driven by Leigh-Anne.

Robert Macdonald leaves court with his solicitor.
Robert Macdonald leaves court with his solicitor.

"He failed to appreciate his car was closing in on the rear of Leigh-Anne's car, nor did he react in time to prevent his car from colliding with the rear of her car.

"The collision changed the direction in which she was travelling and her car was pushed from the south-bound lane across the road and into the northbound lane into the path of the Ford Transit."

Mr Macdonald said the driver of the Transit tried to swerve to avoid the second collision but neither he nor Leigh-Anne had sufficient time to react. Police experts assessed that Macdonald was driving at 20-30mph faster than Leigh-Anne at the time and at least 49mph and 46mph, according to a car sensor which stopped working when damaged.

"The collision investigators conclude the presence of the delivery van in the lay-by may have influenced Leigh-Anne's driving, in that she may have slowed and exercised caution in anticipation that the van may become a hazard. Her Peugeot was in a slight off-side position within the southbound lane but the experts felt there was nothing inappropriate with her speed or positioning." the fiscal added.

He told Sheriff Robert Frazer that there was no evidence Macdonald was travelling at excessive speed and it was likely he was distracted by making the phone call.

The fiscal went on to say that other motorists tried to help Leigh-Anne, who worked at a pharmacy in Keith, and police officers who arrived soon after applied CPR but to no avail. Paramedics also tried in vain for 25 minutes to revive Leigh-Anne.

Macdonald called 999 and told the handler who asked if he knew what happened, he replied: "Not really, I was travelling down the road and, erm, they just stopped out of nowhere and I ran into them and I think they ran into somebody in front of them.

"Cause I couldn't see as soon as I hit the car, it was just all smoke, stuff and stuff..." the court heard.

Macdonald, who was uninjured, then expressed concern for Leigh-Anne, who had left her Elgin home around the same time as him.

Sheriff Frazer was told that the victim's 32 year old husband, Lee, was in shock for a substantial period after his wife's death and it was two months before he could return to work as a rough-caster. He looks after his three year old daughter.

Over a dozen relatives attended the court hearing to hear the facts of their loved one's last moments.

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