Mum, son give different story

Corowa’s Anne Bilney and her son, Joel, arriving at Wangaratta court yesterday. Picture: TARA GOONAN

Corowa’s Anne Bilney and her son, Joel, arriving at Wangaratta court yesterday. Picture: TARA GOONAN

THE Albury man involved in a fatal crash at Browns Plain was veering dangerously close to the wrong side of the road in the minutes before colliding with an oncoming car, a court has heard.

A witness at the crash scene, Corowa’s Joel Bilney, told the jury at Wangaratta County Court yesterday that Stephen Robins, 46, was “hugging” the broken white line down the centre of Barnawartha-Howlong Road before the incident.

Mr Bilney and his mother Anne — who would go on to give contradicting evidence to her son — were on their way home from Wodonga on February 9, 2010 when Robins, in his white Holden Commodore, overtook them about 1½ kilometres from the Murray Valley Highway intersection.

He lost sight of Robins’ car as it took the bend near Doolans Bend Road and Fleggs Road, where he collided with an oncoming red Toyota driven by Wodonga man Andrew Powell, 24.

Mr Powell died at the scene and Robins has pleaded not guilty to culpable driving.

Mr Bilney said his mother was driving below the speed limit of 100km/h when Robins overtook them, and said he soon ended up at least a kilometre ahead of them.

“He wasn’t on the other side of the road but he was hugging that white line,” he said.

“He was veering out and coming back onto the right side of the road ... it happened a couple of times.”

At one point, Mr Bilney said, Robins came close to veering into the path of an oncoming truck.

He said he did not see the crash itself, due to a crest in the road, but saw Robins’ car “spinning and come to a stop”.

Under cross-examination by defence barrister Denis Connell, however, Mr Bilney conceded his evidence yesterday differed from his original statements to police in which he said: “We saw the Holden crash into another car ... we were about 1½ kilometres from the crash but I could see the crash clearly.”

His mother Mrs Bilney told the court she believed she was driving about 95km/h when Robins overtook her car in what she considered a safe manner.

She said she did not notice anything unusual about Robins’ driving, nor did she notice an incident with a truck.

While she too said she did not see the impact of the crash, she said she saw the two cars “bounce off” each other in what appeared to be a “side hit”, not head-on collision.

“The white car sort of spun around, and the other car (Mr Powell’s car) was in an embankment under a tree,” she said.

A nearby resident, James Harris, described hearing an “almighty crash ... the screech of tyres, then a crash” from the front verandah of his house.

Another man Ken Detlefsen was on his way home to Wahgunyah when he came across the scene and stopped to help.

Robins was “disoriented”, he said: “He wasn’t sure what had happened when I asked him.”

The trial before Judge Chris O’Neill continues today.

Colin Powell

Colin Powell

THE father of Wodonga man Andrew Powell has told a court his son was unlikely to have stopped on Barnawartha-Howlong Road — contrary to suggestions made by the defence solicitor for Stephen Robins.

Denis Connell, in his opening remarks to the Wangaratta County Court on Wednesday, had raised some questions over Mr Powell’s actions just before the crash that took his life on February 9, 2010.

Mr Connell said evidence would show Mr Powell, 24, had slowed to just 10km/h and suggested he may have been completing a u-turn near Doolans Bend Road, at the end of which was a small camping and fishing area.

Mr Powell’s father, Colin Powell, yesterday told the jury his son was neither a camper nor fisherman.

“He was very much an inside sort of person,” he said.

Asked by prosecutor Andrew Moore if he had ever known his son to stop on his way home from work, Mr Powell replied: “No, it’s not Andrew at all. Andrew wouldn’t do it.”

Earlier evidence to the court showed Andrew Powell had finished his shift at Uncle Toby’s in Wahgunyah at 3pm, and swiped out of the building about 3.07pm.

The crash occurred about 3.30pm.