Family’s shock as crash jury discharged
An emotional Sydney racing king Bert Vieira has described his “shock” after a jury was unable to reach a verdict in a trial examining the high-speed crash that left his wife with a permanent brain injury.
NSW Highway Patrol Senior Constable Harry Little had pleaded not guilty to dangerous driving after he T-boned Gai Vieira’s Mercedes on a busy road in Sydney’s south in September 2018.
After seven-and-a-half hours of deliberating a jury declared it was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on Friday afternoon.
Judge Sarah Huggett discharged the jury after receiving a note that stated it was unlikely that they would reach a decision if given more time.
Outside court, a shattered Mr Vieira took a moment to compose himself before speaking of his shock at the outcome.
“Very disappointed,” the racing mogul told reporters.
“She’s in the condition she is for almost two-and-a-half years.
“In a wheelchair. Can’t move her arms, can’t move her legs, fed through a tube in her chest.
He said he did not wish any harm on Mr Little but hoped a retrial would be pursued.
Mr Vieira was flanked by daughter Cassie Vieira-Choy and son Trent Vieira, who told reporters that his mother now needed 24-hour care.
“She’s like a prisoner in her own body” Trent Vieira said. “She can’t move, she can barely talk. They’ve got to put lifts in the house so she can get her up and down the levels.”
The trial heard that Mr Little had been travelling at 135km/h – in a 70 zone – in the seconds before the brutal impact as he pursued another driver using their mobile phone along the Kingsway in Cronulla.
The trial heard his Ford patrol car did not have its lights and sirens turned on as it wove in and out of traffic before slamming into Ms Vieira, then 68, as she drove her luxury vehicle into the intersection at Connells Road.
Agreed facts show he accelerated his Ford patrol car past 135km/h after overtaking a learner driver before heavy braking reduced his speed to 87km/h at the point of impact.
“I hit the brakes hard,” Mr Little said, adding he became “fixated” on Ms Vieira’s condition.
During the trial, colleague Sergeant Grant Howell told the court that Mr Little had been tasked with pulling over drivers seen using mobile phones during the statewide Operation Compliance.
At 11.53am Mr Little pulled out from a side street to pursue a Volkswagen Beetle reported to him by a superior.
Just seconds later Mr Little put out an urgent message over the radio and called for backup, the court was told.
Sergeant Howell said he arrived at the crash scene minutes later to find Ms Vieira already pulled from her car receiving treatment and an injured Mr Little sitting on a fence off to the side.
Ms Vieira was taken to St George Hospital, but Mr Little was first conveyed back to Cronulla police station for assessment.
During the drive back to the station Mr Little allegedly made an admission to Sergeant Howell, who was in the car, the court was told.
“I didn’t have a chance to put my lights on. It happened so quick. She was right in front of me,” Mr Little said, according to his colleague.
Mr Little told the court in his own evidence that he had no memory of making those comments, and his barrister Hament Dhanji, SC, said in closing they could not be relied upon.
Mr Dhanji said the Crown case was “deeply flawed” and did not give enough weight to Ms Vieira’s actions that day.
“The evidence is Ms Vieira … pulled out unexpectedly in front of Senior Constable Little,” he said.
“We know from the evidence of the accused … he applied full braking and he was unable to avoid a collision.
“But that does not mean that his driving amounts to driving in a manner dangerous.”
Originally published as Family’s shock as crash jury discharged