'World renowned' Doncaster antiques dealer died in horror road crash
A ‘world renowned’ Doncaster antiques dealer died after losing control of his BMW while travelling at more than 80mph on Sheffield Parkway and colliding with a tree, an inquest heard.
Senior Coroner David Urpeth heard that Richard John Howitt, 56, was travelling on the A57 Sheffield Parkway on Sunday October 13, 2019, when he was involved in the collision close to the exit for Parkway Drive and sadly died.
Emergency services were called to the scene and Lee Ainscough, the driver of another vehicle seen to be travelling close to Mr Howitt’s car shortly before the collision, was subsequently questioned and his car was seized under investigation. He was not charged with any criminal offence.
The court heard from Mr Ainscough that at around 7.10pm he was travelling home from work when he saw Mr Howitt’s BMW 4-series in his rear view mirror.
He said: “The vehicle was gaining on me and travelling at speed and it was very close to my vehicle.
"The car was behind me for a long period so I decided I was going to pull off the parkway. [I did this] just to get out of the way as it seemed to be following me and I didn’t know why.”
Mr Ainscough said that he was concerned that he was going to be ‘car jacked’ as he had read stories about his model of SEAT being stolen.
However, in what Mr Urpeth described as ‘strange behaviour’ Mr Ainscough then travelled back towards Park Square roundabout and rejoined the Parkway Eastbound, revisiting the scene of the incident.
Mr Ainscough said this was because he had not seen the black BMW pass him as be pulled off, and he was ‘curious’.
He said that he drove past the scene and saw the black BMW and emergency workers, and then drove home as it was ‘nothing to do with him’. He was questioned by police later that evening.
Speaking at the inquest, Mr Urpeth said: “It is odd, having pulled off to get away from the car, to then go back and look for it.”
Mr Urpeth asked Mr Ainscough: “Were you racing with Mr Howitt’s car?”
Mr Ainscough replied: “One hundred per cent not.”
Giving evidence at the inquest, forensic collision investigator Alexander Holmes said that recreations of the incident showed that Mr Howitt was travelling at around 85mph when he ‘lost control’ on his vehicle. The speed limit for that stretch of road is 50mph.
Mr Howitt then ‘span anti-clockwise onto the embankment’ and collided with the tree at an estimated 49mph.
Investigating officer PC Christopher Whitehead said that CCTV footage showed Mr Howitt’s BMW travelling at speed behind Mr Ainscough’s SEAT.
He said that at one point Mr Ainscough has pulled in to the inside lane to let Mr Howitt pass however the BMW had instead followed him into the inside lane and continued to travel close behind him, at speed.
PC Whitehead added that he felt Mr Ainscough’s decision to go back to the scene and look for the BMW was ‘feasible with regards to concerns and worries he may have had.’
Mr Urpeth found that Mr Howitt of Lyndhurst Road, Nether Edge, Sheffield died of multiple traumatic injuries and that his death was the result of a road traffic collision.
Paying tribute, Mr Howitt’s family said: “We are utterly devastated at the loss of a dear son, father, husband and friend who will be sadly missed by many.
“Richard, originally from Doncaster, was a well-liked, popular local business man and successful, internationally recognised, antiques and silver dealer of over 35 years.
“He regularly exhibited at trade fairs throughout the country attracting and dealing with hundreds of customers from all over the world. He was particularly well known and professionally respected throughout the Yorkshire region where he had built a loyal trade and client base; many becoming his close personal friends.”
They added: “Richard was the beloved only son of his dear mum and dad, Cyril and Margaret, adored husband to Tracy, loved father of his two children Harry and Helanah and ‘Pet Dad’ to his much loved dog Billy.
“Richard was extremely hard working with a warm and generous nature, a sharp wit, wonderful sense of fun and good humour.
“No words can begin to describe the loss we all feel, family and friends are utterly heartbroken.
“Richard touched so many people’s lives and will continue to live on in the hearts, minds and memories of his family and all who knew and loved him”
Coroner Mr Urpeth concluded: "Whatever was happening, if anything [between Mr Ainscough and Mr Howitt], the fact remains that Mr Howitt was travelling at excessive speed for the road and the conditions and he had the opportunity not be travelling at those speeds.
"Sadly this is another example of a fatality caused by speed which has resulted in the tragic and unnecessary loss of life.”