Euromillions winner cleared of causing death by dangerous driving - but will be sentenced for less serious offence

A EuroMillions winner who caused a fatal Christmas Day crash when he turned round for a “split second” to get a teddy for his two-year-old son has been cleared of causing death by dangerous driving - but he will be sentenced tomorrow (Thursday) after pleading guilty to the less serious charge of causing death by careless driving.

Lincoln Crown Court.

Matt Topham, 31, who won £45 million in 2012, was granted bail overnight after a jury took just over an hour to clear him of causing a pensioner’s death by dangerous driving in North Cockerington in December 25, and a second charge of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

The father-of-three had previously pleaded guilty to the less serious charge of causing death by careless driving.

Judge Catarina Sjolin Knight adjourned sentence until 2pm on Thursday after telling Topham: “The jury has found you not guilty of both dangerous driving charges, but obviously you have pleaded guilty to what remains a serious offence.

“I am going to sentence you for that. I make no promises as to what that sentence will be.

“I know you have been advised and you have overnight to spend time with your family.”

During the trial Topham fought back tears as he told a jury how he caused the fatal crash.

Michael Cranmer-Brown, prosecuting, alleged Topham took his eyes off the road for “up to three seconds” while trying to return the dropped teddy bear to his screaming son.

But giving evidence Topham said he honestly believed it was only for a split second, matching the account he gave to a police officer shortly after the collision. Mary Jane Regler, 75, died in the resulting head-on crash, which happened on Christmas Day 2019.

Topham admitted causing her death by careless driving but denied his actions were dangerous.

A jury at Lincoln Crown Court cleared Topham of causing Mrs Regler’s death by dangerous driving and a second charge of causing serious injury to her husband, Rodney, 78, by dangerous driving.

During his evidence, Topham became visibly upset as he described the “piercing scream” from his two-year-old son which made him turn round.

Topham said: “I truly believe it’s because the scream caused me to instantly react and get that teddy.

“For me it’s so hard because if I was consciously making a decision at that point I would hope I would come to a better decision than I did that day.

“But truly his scream made me react and my reaction was terrible.”

He added: “Initially I put my hand back, and then turned my head to look at the child.”

The jury was read details of police interviews in which Topham admitted he was at fault, saying: “I turned round to get the teddy and that was my mistake.”

When asked by defence QC Paul Greaney why he did not pull over in his BMW X6 to retrieve the teddy, Topham admitted: “I wish I had, but I didn’t.”

Topham added: “I can’t explain my own actions that night because I don’t believe it was right. It was wrong of me to turn around like that.”

Topham told jurors how he and wife Cassey won the lottery in 2012.

He said: “Winning the lottery has been life-changing.

“Paying off mortgages, buying cars and helping friends and family through life.

“We have got a close group of friends that are friends from school.

“We paid off all of their mortgages so they had a step up in life basically.

“We hired a villa in Marbella and took all of our close friends out to celebrate.

“It’s given us the freedom to give people that step up in life.”

Topham, who left school at 16 to work as a painter and decorator with his father, said the couple also now owned a “collection of cars”.

They also paid off his dad’s mortgage, helped him retire and achieved a “dream” for Cassey’s parents by buying Rushmoor Country Farm Park near Louth.

It was at the farm park that the Tophams spent the afternoon of December 25, 2019, before leaving in two separate cars after watching Strictly Come Dancing.

Topham said his sons - aged five and two - were “tired from a busy Christmas Day” so he handed his youngest a teddy and owl blanket after strapping them into their car seats. The family dog was also in the boot.

He added: “As we set off down the road my eldest said that my youngest had dropped his teddy.”

Topham said he assumed his youngest son had fallen asleep and continued for a short distance before hearing the “piercing scream.”

“He literally just started a small whine, as children do, and then he just let out a massive scream and would not stop.”

Topham said his son’s scream sounds like a “burglar alarm in a small room” and makes him “go crazy”.

He explained: “When he was younger there were stages where I had to pass him to my wife and leave the room because I couldn’t deal with the noise.

“It’s so high-pitched, I guess just the right pitch for my ears ringing.”

The jury heard Topham looked up to see headlights in front of him after veering onto the wrong side of the road on a bend.

The accident happened shortly before 6pm near Mrs Regler’s home in North Cockerington.

Topham escaped with only minor injuries from the crash alongside his sons and pet dog.

Mrs Regler died of serious chest injuries while her husband, who was driving, sustained multiple fractures.

Topham told the jury: “I don’t remember hitting the car, I just remember waking up to an airbag in my face and my children screaming.”

Topham said he has since returned to the scene to lay flowers on an anniversary out of “respect”.

He also recreated his actions during the accident on his driveway in a stationary car.

The court previously heard how Topham told officers he was distracted for “one, two, three, maybe three seconds”

But during his evidence, Topham insisted: “I don’t believe in my heart of hearts that I turned around for three seconds that day.

“I honestly believe it was a split second I turned around for.”

Topham, of Swinderby, admitted causing death by careless driving.

He denied causing Mrs Regler’s death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury to her husband by dangerous driving.