A VAN driver whose vehicle killed a pedestrian sobbed in court as he was cleared of causing her death by careless driving.

Stephen Yorke, 54, from Bishop Auckland, hit dog-walker Carol Robson on the South Church Enterprise Park just before Christmas 2015.

Grandmother Mrs Robson, 58, suffered "significant head and chest injuries" and died in hospital a short time after the collision.

Mr Yorke, a logistics manager for Teescraft Engineering, was leaving the factory at about 7.30am on December 21 when tragedy struck.

He told a Teeside Crown Court jury that had seen nothing untoward - no pedestrians or cars - when he pulled away in his Mercedes Sprinter.

Mr Yorke, of Northumberland Avenue, left court in tears after the verdict while a relative in the public gallery also wept.

Three family members of Mrs Robson were also in the public gallery alongside police officers and accident investigators.

Judge Simon Bourne-Arton, QC, said: "I'd like to thank the public gallery for the way in which they've conducted themselves."

The jury of seven women and five men took just 90 minutes to find Mr Yorke not guilty at the end of a trial in its third day.

Mr Yorke insisted that he never saw Mrs Robson despite "scanning" let and right as he pulled away from the factory gates at low speed.

He said within a couple of seconds he felt and impact on the passenger side wheel, and thought he had hit a pot-hole, brick or piece of wood.

The jury heard that the first time he thought there was anything amiss was after he got from the cab and saw a White Jack Russell.

As he walked further around the vehicle, he saw Mrs Robson in the road, and told police: "I just wished it was me lying there instead of her."

Mr Yorke told investigators: "At no point until I got to the back wheels did I think I had anything to worry about. Then my heart sank."

He told said he cuddled Mrs Robson after finding her badly injured in the road, stroked her face, tried to get her to talk and screamed for help.

The van was coming down a dropped kerb to join the main carriageway, Longfield Road, when the collision occurred, the jury heard.

After the tragedy, Mrs Robson's family released a statement paying tribute to "a much-loved and devoted grandmother, mother and sister".

It said: "She was the kind of person who would do anything for anyone and will be greatly missed by all who knew her."