Woman jailed over death of Boundary Mill founder

Tom Bannister

Debbie Barker

First published in News Burnley and Pendle Citizen: Photograph of the Author by , Health Reporter

A WOMAN has been jailed for three years after causing the death of Tom Bannister, whose family founded the Boundary Mill retail chain in Colne.

The 48-year-old was killed after his friend Debbie Barker offered to give him a lift home from a social event in the Yorkshire Dales in her Range Rover.

Barker, 43, was almost twice over the drink-drive limit and crashed near Airton, north of Skipton, at about midnight on June 21 last year.

Mr Bannister, a father-of-one, was not wearing a seatbelt and was thrown through the windscreen, Bradford Crown Court heard.

Barker, of Hellifield Road, Gargrave, near Skipton, was initially charged with manslaughter but this was dropped after she pleaded guilty to causing the death of Mr Bannister while driving without due care and attention, while over the drink-drive limit.

Mr Bannister was managing director of the Coniston Hotel near Skipton, but his family were originally from Trawden and owned three weaving mills in the village, as well as a major site in Colne, which parents Michael and Ethney turned into the Boundary Mill shopping outlet in the 1980s. It is now run by his brother Richard.

He was also a distant relative of the Bannisters of Park Hill, the old manor house in Barrowford which houses Pendle Heritage Centre. Former resident Nicholas Bannister was one of the magistrates who interrogated the so-called ‘Pendle Witches’, while his descendant, Roger Bannister, was the first man to run a mile in under four minutes.

After the crash, Barker, who did not have a mobile phone on her, made two unsuccessful calls at nearby homes, but then she walked across the field to her house.

She called her husband first, before contacting Mr Bannister's father, Michael, shortly before 2am, who rushed to the scene and found his son showing no signs of life. Emergency services arrived at 2.57am.

Barker was also convicted of failing to report the accident and handed a five-year driving ban. The Recorder of Bradford, Judge Roger Thomas QC, told Barker: “If you had been paying sufficient attention, this accident would not have occurred. You failed to negotiate a fairly moderate bend in the road, going straight on and hitting a wall.

“Your conduct after the accident is aggravating in relation to this case. That significant period of time from the accident to the early hours the police came to your door does you no credit at .”

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