Chiltern driver loses appeal over crash death

A CHILTERN man who caused the death of a Melbourne grandmother has lost his bid to overturn a jury’s finding of his guilt.

Owen Richard Allen was sentenced to three years jail with a minimum of 18 months in September last year but appealed his conviction on a charge of dangerous driving causing death and serious injury.

He argued the verdict was unsafe and unsatisfactory and that the evidence of child witnesses was unreliable.

Gabby Pirpinias, 57, died when her Isuzu truck and a LandCruiser hit head-on on Thomas Mitchell Drive on August 14, 2010.

The prosecution case was that Allen had sped out of muddy roadworks on Docking Street onto Thomas Mitchell Drive, causing the LandCruiser driven by David Greig to swerve into the path of Mrs Pirpinias.

Police had at first ass-umed the accident involved only two vehicles but soon after arriving at the scene, four children — aged 10, 11, 12 and 13 — who had been walking in Docking Street told them their version of events.

Allen had been in the driveway of a Docking Street house, 120 metres from the Thomas Mitchell Drive intersection, when the children walked past.

He argued with them, wrongly accusing them of spitting on his car.

The children stated they saw Allen get into a ute and speed off, pulling out in front of Mr Greig.

Defence barrister Philip Skehan told the jury at trial the children were not reliable witnesses.

The defence raised the possibility Mr Grieg had fallen asleep at the wheel.

But in handing down their finding yesterday, Supreme Court justices Chris Maxwell, Marcia Neave and Emilios Kyrou found there was “simply no evidence” to support that.

They said the children had been interviewed very soon after the accident, and all had told police Allen was driving fast, skidding or fish-tailing as he app-roached the corner.

The jury had been warned at the time to scrutinise evidence of the children carefully, they found.

“No witness saw the applicant’s vehicle in Thomas Mitchell Drive, or Mr Grieg being forced to swerve, but the cause of an accident must often be inferred from previous events,” the appeal judges said.

They said the jury was also entitled to have doubts about the credibility of Allen, after he denied he had dropped anyone off in Docking Street, “though this was clearly false”.