Drug driver killed West Yorkshire woman on Arabian cruise excursion just hours after failing his test

A West Yorkshire woman was killed on holiday by a drug driver who also killed another woman and left her husband unconscious.

Friday, 4th October 2019, 12:45 pm

Ossett couple Audrey and Eric Lindley were on a coach excursion round the Omani port town of Salalah while taking an 'Authentic Arabia' cruise around the Middle East to celebrate their Golden anniversary and her 70th birthday.

An inquest has heard how Audrey, 69, and fellow British tourist Juanita Baptiste, were killed 'instantly' as they alighted the coach which had illegally parked on a busy road outside the port town's Haffa market on the morning of September 27 last year - three days before Audrey's birthday.

As they got off, a 22-year-old man who had "taken his test that same morning and failed" came speeding up the road in a Toyota Prado, crashing into Audrey, Eric and recently-widowed London nurse Juanita, 73.

Wakefield Coroner's Court. Picture: SWNS

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Audrey, a retired Post Office clerk, and Juanita were both pronounced dead at the scene while Mr Lindley, 71, was severely injured and taken to hospital, where he was later told his wife of 50 years had been killed.

An inquest held into the two deaths on Tuesday heard how the driver, an Omani local, was under the influence of drink and narcotic drugs at the time and was driving down the busy road at an "excessive speed" in a car which didn't belong to him.

He was later sentenced to 18 months in prison, although the charges against him were exclusively for driving under the influence and without a licence, and did not take into account the two deaths and serious injuries he caused.

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Salalah, in southern Oman, where Audrey Lindley and Juanita Baptiste were killed in a road collision while on a cruise excursion

Tourists were allowed to disembark into the road despite there being no-one watching out for oncoming traffic.

A statement from Mr Lindley read in court said: "I realised we were stepping out on to the road. I was hit from behind.

"I only remember being hit and pushed into the side of the bus and I was rendered unconscious. I was taken to hospital. My two sons came over and came to the hospital where they told me Audrey had also been involved and she had died as a result of her injuries."

Mr Lindley, a retired IT consultant, was later flown by air ambulance back to Leeds Bradford Airport and transferred to Leeds General Infirmary's Major Trauma Unit where he stayed until December, meaning Audrey's funeral had to be postponed.

A statement from the couple's daughter-in-law Sarah Lindley said: "We later heard the driver had taken his test that same morning and failed it and should not have been driving. He was alone and unsupervised at the time of the collision."

Mrs Baptiste, who had been on holiday with her friend and former nursing colleague Diane Cheetham, also died at the scene from her injuries despite Ms Cheetham's desperate attempts to help her.

A statement from Diane read: "People were shouting, 'oh my God', and that a Range Rover-type vehicle had knocked people over. Suddenly I heard someone calling my name.

"I saw Juanita and two other passengers lying in the road.

"I checked her (Juanita's) pulse but there was nothing. The people around the injured bodies were trying to help in any way they could."

Both Audrey and Juanita's bodies were repatriated to the UK.

Coroner Kevin McLoughlin recorded verdicts for both deaths as death by Road Traffic Collision due to there being no charges against the driver regarding the deaths, meaning there was insufficient evidence for a verdict of Unlawful Killing.

Mr McLoughlin said: "This is a truly grievous situation - I feel heartfelt sympathies for the families involved.

"The yearning for more information and to know precisely what the driver was doing on that day leaves a gaping hole and we are missing pieces of a jigsaw."

Speaking after the inquest, Eric said: “A year on, everything that happened that day still feels so raw. We were meant to be celebrating our golden anniversary and Audrey’s birthday, and instead my whole world came crashing down that day.

“We all miss Audrey every single day. She was the love of my life and such a caring woman. She was a wonderful wife, mum and grandmother and our family is not the same without her.

“I still can’t believe she is gone, and while nothing will bring her back, my main hope was that this inquest would finally give me the answers I needed regarding what happened.”

Juanita’s son Richard said: “Not a day goes by when I don’t think about our Mum and the horrific way she was taken from us.

“She always loved going on holiday and I know she was really looking forward to the cruise. Now I wish she had never booked it.

“The inquest this week has been incredibly difficult, but I hope it will help me to understand what happened that day.”

Allison Slingo, from Irwin Mitchell solicitors who represented both families, said: “While nothing will change the devastating circumstances surrounding Audrey’s and Juanita’s deaths we are pleased that we have at least been able to help the families obtain the vital answers they deserve."