Aston biker’s death will remain a mystery

Guardian News
Guardian News

THE death of an Aston biker who slid into the path of an oncoming car remains shrouded in mystery following an inquest.

A police investigation speculated that steelworker John Catherall may have been speeding before losing control of his Triumph Tiger bike on a bend.

But four witnesses to the collision stated that he had been travelling at a safe speed before the accident at Owler Bar, near Chesterfield, on 20th October, last year.

BMW driver Richard Palmer told the inquest he was driving towards Baslow on the A621 behind the motorcycle at 50-60mph and he estimated the bike’s speed to be similar.

He saw it brake as it approached a left-hand bend. The back end ‘twitched’ and Mr Catherall, 46, tried to regain control before falling off and sliding into the opposite carriageway, where he was in collision with a Vauxhall Zafira.

“I could see no reason why he braked. I found a faint pulse on him but then no pulse at all,” said Mr Palmer, who stopped and alerted emergency services.

A passing doctor then pulled up and took over attempts to resuscitate Mr Catherall.

Jake Rainbow was driving in front of the Zafira and said the oncoming bike passed him at a speed comparable with other vehicles. He looked in his rear view mirror and saw its back end wobble before Mr Catherall came off it.

The Zafira was driven by Australian airline pilot James Whitehurst, who was on holiday visiting relatives in Chapel-en-le-Frith.

He told police the motorcycle was not speeding, adding: “It started wobbling and flipped out from underneath him. He was thrown into my carriageway. I swerved to the left and he collided with my front right tyre.”

“I had literally no time to react to the situation as it unfolded before me. I could see no reason why he lost control.”

Mr Catherall, of Windsor Rise, Aston, died at the scene from multiple injuries. Postmortem tests showed no trace of alcohol or drugs and police checks on both vehicles found no defects that could have contributed to the accident.

Collision investigator Pc Shaun Downing told the Chesterfield inquest the rider had braked before and on the bend. The rear wheel locked and he fell off.

Police estimated the bike’s speed at 43mph when it began sliding along the road. They could not calculate its speed prior to braking but an officer believed it could have been as high as 80mph, with the rider taking the bend in the wrong position.

“We really don’t know how fast he was travelling but four witnesses say his speed was normal. He was facing a gentle bend and he was an experienced rider. We are absolutely clueless as to why he braked so heavily,” said Deputy North Derbyshire Coroner Nigel Anderson.

“He may have found himself in pain or unwell or believed he saw something in the road that no-one else saw. Because he applied the rear brake hard he came off the motorcycle. He was over-using the rear brake for reasons that remain a complete mystery.”

Mr Anderson recorded a verdict of accidental death.