08:10PM, Monday 08 July 2019
Flowers left at the scene of the collision
A teenage drug-driver who hit and killed two pedestrians in Sunninghill did not commit an unlawful killing, an inquest has found.
Max Coopey, 18, of The Burlings, Ascot, drove into 48-year-old Jason Imi, from Twickenham, and 61-year-old John Shackley from Deanshanger, near Milton Keynes, on the evening of August 2 last year.
The pair had been staying with work colleagues at the Royal Berkshire Hotel, in London Road, and were on their way back from an evening of dinner and drinks at Sunninghill’s Pazzia restaurant.
An inquest held at Reading Coroners’ Court today heard how Coopey, then 17, knocked over the men in his black Audi A5 while they crossed the A329 London Road near the entrance of their hotel shortly before 11.30pm.
The men died at the scene and Thames Valley Police later charged Coopey with drug-driving after he was found to have cannabis and codeine in his blood.
He was not charged with causing death by dangerous driving.
The inquest heard today how Coopey had borrowed the high-powered car off his father, Russel Coopey, a serving police sergeant, and had been driving his two friends around on the evening of the crash.
He told the inquest he had been travelling over a ‘dip in the road’ in the A329 when he spotted Mr Imi and Mr Shackley preparing to cross over.
He said: “They got to halfway across the road and I was very close to them.
“I don’t know what they were doing but it looked like they were panicking.”
Coopey said he had been driving at the 50mph speed limit and applied the brakes for three seconds but then heard a ‘thud’ as Mr Imi and Mr Shackley were hit by the car.
When quizzed about his drug use in the lead up to the crash, the 18-year-old told the inquest he had used a cannabis vape at about 6pm and the codeine was the result of a cough mixture.
He added: “Just because something is in your blood it doesn’t mean it influences your driving.
“That can be found in any research, Google it.”
Giving evidence, PC Adrian White, a forensic collision investigator for Thames Valley Police, told the inquest that due to the dark area where the pedestrians were crossing and the fact Coopey was using dipped beams, he did not have time to react.
He said: “There Is no sign that the Audi was being driven at an excess speed.
“Even if the driver had not used cannabis, the collision still more than likely would have occurred.”
Nicholas Hinchliffe QC, on behalf of Mr Imi’s family, said the crash was a ‘clear case’ of dangerous driving and warranted a finding of unlawful killing.
But assistant Berkshire coroner Alison McCormick said she could not find beyond reasonable doubt that Coopey had been speeding.
She added: “Equally, there is no evidence to that the fact Max was using cannabis did in fact affect his ability to drive safely.”
She delivered a verdict that the deaths of Mr Imi and Mr Shackley were caused by a road traffic collision.
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