A GERMAN driver who caused the death of a much-loved motorcyclist on the A19 has been fined £5,000 after apologising in court.
Physics teacher Thomas Menzel (pictured) had been visiting family in Elwick village, on the outskirts of Hartlepool, when he pulled out in front of a motorbike heading along the southbound carriageway.
Menzel, his wife and three daughters escaped serious injury in a German registered Peugeot but biker Thomas Brown, 71, was pronounced dead at the scene after being thrown from his Suzuki.
Menzel, 48, admitted causing death by careless driving and told Mr Brown’s family, who had gathered in Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court, that he is “extremely sorry” for what happened at 8pm on July 21 last year.
He was fined £5,000 and banned from driving in the UK for 12 months after town justices heard he had no previous convictions, could not have a community order as he lives in Germany and had shown “genuine remorse”.
A statement by Mr Brown’s wife, Carol, was read out by prosecutor Lynne Roberts-Plowman, who said a detailed police investigation had led to the conclusion that Menzel should have been able to see the dad-of-one.
The statement said: “Tom was more than just a husband and a father, he was totally devoted to us and spent his whole life taking care of us. I relied on him so much.
“As his wife, I would like to say the actions of the driver have totally devastated our family and have taken from us a deeply loved husband, father and respected uncle.”
Mr Brown, who was from Sunderland, and his son Adam had only returned from a five-week trip to Hong Kong and Australia in May and were hoping to visit India later in the year.
“He was a truly magnificent dad and they did everything together,” the statement added.
In an unprecedented move, Menzel asked to address the family directly in court.
He was granted permission and told the full public gallery: “I’m extremely sorry for what happened to Mr Brown and the grief it caused, more now that I have heard the letter.
“My wife and I have been praying for you and I hope you can forgive me.
“If there’s anything we could do to lesson the pain we would do so.”
Tom Malarkey, mitigating, said Menzel had driven out of Elwick and was crossing the southbound carriageway to reach a central reservation before turning right towards Sunderland when the crash happened.
Mr Malarkey said: “This wasn’t someone on a joyride. This is a family man who had children in the car.
“He wouldn’t have taken any risks if he had saw this vehicle and he doesn’t understand how he missed it.
“The report says he must have and he will have to wrestle with why he didn’t see this man who was driving expertly on the road at that time.”