Andrea Francis insisted she had no idea her car had hit another vehicle (Picture: Cavendish Press)
A wealthy businesswoman who fled the scene of a car prang has been cleared after claiming she was ‘stressed’ out by her ‘awful’ attempts at parking to go on a shopping trip following months of shielding from Covid.
Andrea Francis, 66, accidentally scraped a stationary Audi as she unsuccessfully tried to reverse her Mercedes into a parking bay to pick up some items from a village boutique in Cheshire.
She briefly stepped out when her black soft top mounted the pavement only to then drive off to another car park nearby – leaving the Audi with dents and scrapes which she says she never noticed.
The businesswoman was later charged with careless driving and failing to stop and report an accident after CCTV picked up her numberplate.
Francis is a £140,000-a-year managing director of a pharmaceutical company which she runs from her luxury £1.2 million home in the affluent village of Marthall, near Knutsford.
She was cleared of both offences at Tameside Magistrates’ Court this week after insisting she had not realised she had crashed into anything because she was ‘stressed’ and felt ‘ridiculous’ about her shoddy parking attempts.
The court heard she had gone shopping in Hale Village, near Altrincham, on August 7 last year on what she said was one of her first outings after spending three months shielding from coronavirus.
Prosecutor Nick Smart said: ‘She was driving her Mercedes when she bumped into an Audi A3 which was left secure and unattended.
‘CCTV footage showed the Mercedes reversing into the space in front of the Audi, but the rear of the defendant’s car goes onto the footpath.
‘The driver then pulls forward to move her Mercedes back out into the road to manoeuvre again but it is this point her vehicle scrapes and rubs against the Audi causing damage to the rear of the vehicle.
‘The defendant then gets out of her car and is looking over at the Audi. She then goes behind the back of her Mercedes and checks for possible damage caused to her car. She then gets back into her own vehicle and drives off. No note or any details were left at the scene.
‘There was damage to the Audi including the front left side panel which was dented and scraped. The wheel trim on the left side was also scraped and scratched.’
In her defence, Francis, who has worked as a senior clinical researcher with various pharmaceutical firms around the world, insisted she had no idea she had hit the Audi because she was so stressed.
She said: ‘I had been previously diagnosed with a chest infection and was at high risk of catching Covid and I had been shielding for three months. I had not made many other journeys before this as I had to shield.
‘I did not know what to expect and it was one of the first occasions I had been out for some time. I was feeling anxious and upset as I did not know how things were going with Covid.
‘I was collecting some material from a shop in Hale village that was about to close down, and it was on my mind to get home. I did not want to extend my trip.
‘It was a busy road with traffic travelling both sides with lots of pedestrians and I wanted to park in that space because the shop I needed was opposite the road.
‘My manoeuvre was awful the first time my back wheel went into the pavement, I felt ridiculous, and I had to come back into the traffic. That was when the collision must have occurred. There was a noticeable sound in the car, but I truly was not aware of the collision.
‘Had I known then I would have looked to see if there was anyone in the car and then I would have left a note on the windscreen. I got out of the car and went around the back as I wanted to see how I was parked on the pavement.
‘The way I parked wasn’t great. I saw a mark to the other vehicle, but I thought it was a mud splash. I wasn’t entirely sure what it was.
‘I was more concerned about parking the car and I just couldn’t face trying to park it there again.’
Francis said she was ‘stressed’ by her ‘awful’ attempts to park and having had to shield for three months (Picture: Andrea Francis/ Cavendish Press)
Under cross examination she added: ‘I was stressed with my own problems. I was holding the traffic up and I was angled out onto the road.
‘I went to park in a big car park after and then walked back to the shop. I looked down at the wheel and noticed the mark, but I thought it was a mud splash.
‘I was not looking for any damage. At that time, I thought enough was enough and that was when I drove off. I was not chancing my arm in the hope I would get away with it.
‘As far as I was concerned, I had not hit anything or done anything wrong. I had just been isolating for three months, I was only aware of this when the police called me. I didn’t know I had hit anything.’
Francis was ordered to pay £250 in costs and surcharges.
JP Marilyn Gibson told her: ‘From our evaluation, the evidence you gave was consistent and you gave a clear account.
‘Therefore, our findings on the balance of probabilities are that you had no awareness of the crash.’
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