A MOTORIST who was blinded by a low sun has been cleared of causing the death of an elderly cyclist by careless driving.

Aidan Tait said he was unaware a cyclist was ahead of him as he drove his Tesla S vehicle on the southbound side of the A177, at High Shincliffe, near Durham, shortly after 9.10am on Friday November 10, 2017.

Durham Crown Court heard that driving experts for both the prosecution and defence agreed cyclist Fred Heppell would have been in Mr Tait’s field of vision for up to 370 metres, for about 20 seconds, as he drove at 40-miles per hour travelling from the direction of Durham towards Bowburn.

The court was told other drivers using the road at the time spoke of the effect of the low sun, on the clear day, which Mr Tait said dazzled him as he took a slight left-hand bend, with the village of High Shincliffe to his left.

In her case opening, Deborah Smithies, prosecuting, told the trial jury: “It is common ground that the defendant simply did not see him there, on the road, at all.

“At no point was he aware that there was a cyclist ahead of him on the left.

“Unaware of Mr Heppell’s presence on the road he made no adjustment for the position of his vehicle and, so it was, that he made contact with the bicycle, it would seem, with his left-hand wing mirror.”

It caused Mr Heppell to fall to the ground, just past the junction with The Avenue, High Shincliffe.

Miss Smithies said Mr Heppell was not wearing a helmet and as his head hit the ground, he “most likely” lost consciousness almost immediately.

Realising he had struck something, Mr Tait pulled up and got out to check.

A passing duty nurse and an RAF medic stopped to give help and an ambulance was on scene within minutes.

Mr Heppell was flown by air ambulance to James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, where, with his wife Patricia present, he died later that day.

The 80-year-old retired bank manager, from Lanchester, County Durham, was said to be a regular cyclist who was heading to Great Ayton and back on the fateful day.

Mr Tait, 37, of Griffiths Court, Bowburn, denied causing death by careless driving.

The prosecution’s previous claim that a factor hindering Mr Tait’s vision may have been the lack of screen wash in the Tesla while the windscreen was, in part, covered by a film of dirt, but this was ruled out early in the trial.

On the third day of the hearing, the jury returned a not guilty verdict.

Judge Christopher Prince thanked the respective motoring experts for their “input” into the case.