‘It was a nightmare’: Dangerous driver jailed after killing Ampthill family's beloved horse on the M1

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A dangerous driver has been jailed after he killed a family’s beloved horse on the M1.

Nicholas Cole, aged 47, of Harrison Road, Wordsley, Stourbridge appeared at Northampton Crown Court on May 9 for sentencing, after he pleaded guilty to driving dangerously at an earlier court hearing.

On July 17, last year, Karen Lambley and her daughter Beth were driving on the M1 from their then home in Ampthill to Beth’s boyfriend’s home in Nottingham.

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The pair were taking their horse, Morris, to Nottingham so Beth’s boyfriend could learn to play horseball, which Morris had been a part of on an international level, and for a “quieter life”, which Karen says makes his death even more heartbreaking.

Morris was killed by a dangerous driver on the M1 near Northampton.Morris was killed by a dangerous driver on the M1 near Northampton.
Morris was killed by a dangerous driver on the M1 near Northampton.

However, on the northbound carriageway of the motorway between junction 14 and 15, the Lambley’s horsebox broke down. The stretch of motorway is a ‘smart, all-lanes running’ section, which means there is no constant hard shoulder. The gantry above the carriageway was, however, displaying a red X, which indicates to drivers that they cannot use that lane as there is an obstruction.

A National Highways vehicle had also stopped to assist Karen and Beth and was displaying flashing amber and red lights, but lorry driver Cole, failed to move out of the lane. He saw the vehicle at the last moment and tried to swerve but clipped the Highways vehicle before colliding with the horsebox. He was travelling at high speed, which can be seen in the dashcam footage above, released by Northamptonshire Police, following the conclusion of court proceedings.

Morris, who the family said was “more than a horse” to them, was pronounced dead at the scene of the collision.

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48-year-old Karen said: “He was quite a rare horse. We can now appreciate Morris even more because we could do anything with him; jumping, hacking. He would do everything. He was more than a horse to us.”

Jamie and Morris won bronze at the horseball European Championships in 2017.Jamie and Morris won bronze at the horseball European Championships in 2017.
Jamie and Morris won bronze at the horseball European Championships in 2017.

The Lambleys owned Morris for eight years before his death. Karen described him as a real family horse, as so many members of their family rode him, including Beth, who had been riding him since she was 12, Karen herself and Karen’s son Jamie who all competed with Morris in horseball. Jamie and Morris even won a bronze medal at the European Championships in 2017.

Morris was only 15 when he was killed, so his life was cut short by potentially 10 to 15 years.

Thankfully, Karen and Beth were standing on the embankment when Cole’s HGV collided with the stationary vehicles, so they were unharmed. Remarkably, so was their three-year-old Rottweiler who was in the van at the time of the collision. However, the incident has emotionally left its mark on both Karen and Beth.

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Speaking about the incident, Karen said: “We have broken down numerous times, but we had always felt safe. When the Highways Officer turned up, we breathed a sigh of relief, so for that to happen, it was just a nightmare. Even now, looking back, I can hear the noise of the lorry.

Morris had been a part of Karen's family for eight years.Morris had been a part of Karen's family for eight years.
Morris had been a part of Karen's family for eight years.

“It doesn’t feel real.

“Thank goodness we were on the embankment.

“I shouted to Beth to run, but even now I feel guilty because I wonder if I grabbed her or if I left her. She tells me I grabbed her and ran.”

According to Northamptonshire Police, at the scene, Cole’s account was that he had been listening to the radio before the collision took place and the next thing he knew, he saw the Highways vehicle and swerved to avoid it.

Many members of Karen's family - including Beth - competed with Morris at a high level for horseball.Many members of Karen's family - including Beth - competed with Morris at a high level for horseball.
Many members of Karen's family - including Beth - competed with Morris at a high level for horseball.

Cole was taken to Northampton General Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The carriageway was also closed for around six hours while emergency services dealt with the incident and while recovery took place.

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“He was a professional driver, he should have known what he was doing,” Karen added.

“If everyone had their wits about them, smart motorways would be fine. Also on hard shoulders you hear stories of people going into them. I don’t blame the smart motorway, as there are stopping points, and that is where we were trying to get to.”

Karen says the incident has left her really nervous and anxious about motorway driving. She says she dreads it now. The family moved from Ampthill to Leicestershire at the end of last year, which involved a lot of motorway driving for Karen. She said it was a really difficult time for her as she had to get her eight horses and two Shetlands to their new home, which involved several trips up and down the M1.

Following the court hearing, Karen says she was pleased with the outcome as she was not convinced Cole would get a prison term.

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PS Richard Hill from Northamptonshire Police’s Roads Policing Team added: “As people will be able to see from the footage, this was a shocking collision that sadly resulted in a horse being killed.

“It’s a stark example of how important it is to keep your focus on the road when you’re driving and to ensure you read the gantry signs displayed on the motorway. Cole would have had plenty of time to see the red X and yet still caused this collision.

“I hope this sentence is a lesson to him and to other road users. Driving a vehicle is a big responsibility and it is paramount that you are always aware of your surroundings.”

Cole was sentenced 42 weeks in prison and suspended from driving for 21 months.