A19 death smash lorry driver facing jail as devastated mother and girlfriend tell court life without 'beautiful' John Robinson is 'unbearable'

A lorry driver who caused a fatal crash when he brought his vehicle to a sudden stop on the A19 after he missed a turn-off is facing jail.

Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 3:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd January 2020, 8:59 am

Marcel Balan, 57, brought his Daff HGV to a halt on the A19 and caused John Robinson to smash his Ford Fusion into the back of it just three seconds later.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the force of the collision pushed the lorry eight metres along the dual carriageway and Mr Robinson's Ford went underneath it.

The much loved 24-year-old, from Peterlee, who was travelling home from work at Faltec in Boldon, died from severe head injuries.

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Marcel Balan

Balan, of Cope Street, Barnsley, denied causing death by dangerous driving and the lesser charge of causing death by driving without due care and attention and has been tried by a jury.

He told jurors he had brought his lorry to a safe and slow standstill because he feared his cargo had come loose and he wanted to avoid "catastrophe".

After a deliberating for under five hours, the jury found Balan, who appeared to wipe away tears after the verdict, guilty of causing death by dangerous driving.

Gavin Doig, defending, applied for Balan's bail to continue until the sentence hearing on Friday, February 7, and said "there is no reason he will not attend".

John Robinson

But Judge Penny Moreland said: "I'm afraid, in the light of the jury's verdict, the defendant will remain in custody until the date of sentence."

After the guilty verdict, Mr Robinson's mum Louise, who attended the trial daily with her husband Terence and other loved ones, read a heartbreaking statement from the family.

Speaking from the witness box, Louise Robinson said even writing a statement about the loss of her son was "traumatic".

Mrs Robinson said she and her husband had been asleep in bed when police came to the door in the hours after the crash with "the worst news for a parent to receive".

Marcel Balan's lorry

The couple were then taken to Sunderland Royal Hospital to identify their son.

The grieving mum said: "As he lay in the mortuary we just wanted to hug him but we were not allowed in that room at that time."

Mrs Robinson said she and her husband then had to break the devastating news to her other son Mark, his wife Katie and the rest of the family and friends.

She added: "It was hard to see their shock and disbelief and their desperate sorrow, the same as ours."

Mrs Robinson said she and the close family were eventually allowed to see her son "properly" and added: "This time was precious to us but at the same time it was traumatic to see our young, beautiful John, who we love so much, broken and lifeless."

Mrs Robinson said her son had travelled around Northern Europe and enjoyed embracing different cultures and scenery.

She said her son was "handsome, tall", loved his family, God, music, nature and world foods and added: "He was an honest, principled, young man with high moral standards.

"John was funny. He would say hilarious things and crack me up.

"The feeling of sadness, that something is missing, something is wrong, this will effect us for the rest of our lives.

"We will always miss John and we will always love John."

In the statement, Mr Robinson's brother Mark Robinson described his sibling as a "selfless man, kind, generous hard working, with big plans for the future."

He added: "He had a big heart and I am so proud to be his brother.

"He brought a light into the lives of everyone who knew him.

"The world is a worse place without him."

Mr Robinson's dad Terence said being a a father to him brought "great joy" and added: "Out of the sadness of this tragic situation, were are left with an empty feeling inside but both of our hearts are full of the loving memories John has given us."

Mr Robinson's girlfriend Jade Bowden read her own statement from the witness box and said they had planned to get engaged and later marry and described him as "my number one person".

She added that the pain hit her "instantly" when she was told Mr Robinson had died and she finds each day a struggle without him.

She added: "Life without John is unbearable."

Prosecutor Mark Guiliani told Balan was out making deliveries on behalf of a coffee bar chain on March 12 last year and had started his shift in the early evening.

Just before the fatal crash, which happened near midnight, Balan had made a delivery at Simonside service station in South Shields and was heading to the Bridges Shopping Centre in Sunderland but missed a turn off onto the A1231.

Mr Guiliani said Balan had brought his vehicle to a stop within about eight seconds and would have used "moderate to heavy" braking to do so.

He added: "To stop at all, let alone to make a stop so quickly when there was no emergency either ahead or behind was not only unnecessary but clearly dangerous.

"The defendant stopped on the nearside lane, at night, on an unlit section of road.

"Three seconds later, John Robinson collided with the rear of the lorry. His car pushed it forward eight meters and ended up underneath."