Why was daughter lying in the road?

Sarah Watkinson's parents attend the inquest into her death.
Sarah Watkinson's parents attend the inquest into her death.

A three-year investigation into the death of a woman crushed by a taxi while lying in the middle of a Doncaster country lane at night will not lead to a prosecution.

Police say there is not enough evidence to charge the boyfriend of Sarah Watkinson in connection with the fatal incident on Ludwell Hill, Barnburgh, in January 2010.

Sarah Watkinson

Sarah Watkinson

He angered her family by refusing to attend the inquest.

Det Sgt Dave Robertson said Gary Cooper had been arrested and interviewed, and said he was some distance behind Sarah at the time of impact because he was urinating.

But a grit lorry crew insisted they saw him standing over her as she lay in the road when they drove past a few minutes earlier.

“We did not reach the burden of proof threshold that Gary Cooper committed an act that caused Sarah’s death,” said Det Sgt Robertson. “We can’t prove he committed any criminal offence.”

Why was daughter lying in the road?

A grieving dad has condemned his daughter’s boyfriend for refusing to attend court and explain why she was lying in the middle of a Doncaster road when a taxi killed her.

Sarah Watkinson suffered horrific injuries as she lay on Ludwell Hill, Barnburgh, on a winter’s night three years ago.

Her bare-chested boyfriend, Gary Cooper, was seen standing nearby shortly before the accident - but chose not to attend the inquest to explain what happened in the minutes leading up to her death in the early hours of January 17, 2010.

Witnesses described Cooper had:

* Been abusive and aggressive to an off-duty policeman in a Barnburgh pub

* Thrown a pub sign at a parked car

* Kicked and punched three passing cars as the couple walked towards High Melton

* Attacked the cab driver and passengers who got out to help, moments after Sarah was crushed by the taxi.

Cooper, of Melton Mill Lane, is currently serving a jail sentence for robbery, and declined to leave his prison cell to attend the inquest.

His decision denied Sarah’s father, Derek Watkinson, the chance to ask him what happened that night after the couple had been drinking heavily in Barnburgh.

Mr Watkinson said afterwards: “It is characteristic of him and his arrogance. It shows how much he thinks about my daughter.

“I really wanted him to turn up because only he knows what happened. He can’t face us, but I’m not surprised.”

Mr Watkinson says he attaches no blame to the taxi driver, and accepts the police do not have enough evidence for a criminal case against Cooper.

The inquest was told taxi driver Peter Warrior, 41, of Bolton-on-Dearne, was driving passengers from The Stables at High Melton towards Barnburgh when he saw a woman lying in the road.

“I braked as hard as I could as soon as I saw her,” he said. “I couldn’t stop before I hit her. I went straight over the top of her.

“He opened the door and started kicking me. He tried to drag me out of the car and I tried to fight him off. He was attacking anybody and everybody.”

Recording a narrative verdict, Assistant Coroner Mark Beresford said there was ‘no reliable evidence that he had been violent to her that evening’.

“Unfortunately, I am unable to reach a clear conclusion why she came to be lying on Ludwell Hill,” he said.

I wish she’d never met him...she was blind to his bad side

Sarah Watkinson, aged 25, a mother-of-two of Swanee Road, Kendray, had been going out with Gary Cooper for nearly a year before her death.

Her dad said he never approved of the relationship.

“They met on a blind date after he had come out of prison and I didn’t like it because of what I was told about him,” he said.

“She must have loved him, but it caused tension between us.

“I just wish she’d never met him. I knew something could happen, but she was blind to his bad side.

“We still don’t know why she was lying in the road that night and nothing can be proved.

“He should have lifted her up and carried her off the road before that taxi came.”