Fatal crash trial: Crowborough driver denies taking painkillers before setting off

Emma Downs is standing trial at Lewes Crown Court
Emma Downs is standing trial at Lewes Crown Court

A mum-of-six whose 4x4 struck three pedestrians has denied taking high-strength painkillers before getting into her car.

Matthew Lind and James Morden, both 31, were walking back from a pub near Lewes with friends just after sunset when they were tragically killed in the crash in September 2017.

Emma Downs, 38, of Sussex View Close in Crowborough, is charged with causing their deaths by careless driving. She denies the offences.

She has been standing trial at Lewes Crown Court this week.

Earlier in the trial prosecutor Elizabeth Lowe read out a series of texts that Downs had sent in the days before the tragic crash.

They included her saying ‘I can barely drive, it’s not safe at night’ and ‘I wanted to get home before it gets dark because of my eyes in the dark being so tired and my meds I just can’t see’.

Ms Lowe said at the outset of the trial: “We are not suggesting that she was unfit to drive as a result of her taking medication or illness or injury.

“She was having difficulty seeing at night time while driving.”

Today Downs took to the witness box to give evidence herself and was cross-examined by the prosecution.

She told the jury that she does take Tramadol for a long-standing back issue, but only as she goes to bed at night.

“I hadn’t taken my meds before [driving].”

Downs was asked why she texted her sister ‘I was really struggling with my meds. I just keep fainting.’

She told the court that this was her seeking to make an excuse to stop her sister coming to visit, and she was not actually fainting.

The prosecutor asked her to explain a text she sent saying ‘I wanted to get home before it gets dark because of my eyes in the dark being so tired and my meds I just can’t see’

The prosecutor said: “My impression of that text message is that you are saying I want to get home before it gets dark because I can’t see when I am on my meds.

“You are saying that you can’t see in the dark.”

Downs replied: “Yes, if I had taken my meds. I had not taken any meds and I wanted to get home.

“I can see in the dark.”

She was then questioned about a text from her that said: ‘I can barely drive, it is not safe at night’.

Downs said this referred to a specific time she had been crying before setting off in her car.

Prosecutor Ms Lowe said: “You have told your sister that you can’t see at night, that you can barely drive.”

Downs said: “Yes because I wanted to be at home.”

Ms Lowe said: “You did not see those two young men and the lady on the road because you were not driving with sufficient care.

“You had got in the car knowing full well that you were having particular issues with driving at night.

“You had run a risk hadn’t you on a road you were very familiar with and it resulted in the incident that we have heard about?”

Downs replied: “No I was driving with perfect care. I have no problems seeing in the dark.”

She denied having ‘run a risk’.

The trial continues.