Pensioner acquitted of causing baby’s death by careless driving due to insanity

A pensioner accused of causing a young boy’s death through careless driving was found not guilty by reason of insanity, with jurors finding she was struck by her undiagnosed dementia.

Helagh Robertson, 75, was driving home from a shopping spree at Tesco when she turned into the path of a delivery van on the A10 in Waterbeach in Cambridgeshire on January 22 last year, Cambridge Crown Court heard.

The van collided with Robertson’s car, forcing the van onto the sidewalk where it struck Rachael Thorold and her five-month-old son Louis Thorold, killing Louis and throwing Mrs Thorold into the air, causing her serious injuries.


Shelagh Robertson arrives at Cambridge Crown Court where she is charged with causing the death of five-month-old Louis Thorold through careless driving following an accident on the A10 in Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire January 22, 2021. Picture date: Friday August 12, 2022 .

Judge Mark Bishop told the jury that to enter a special verdict of insanity they would have to be satisfied that Robertson had dementia at the time and either didn’t know what she was doing or didn’t know what she was doing not correct.

He said that this “does not include a momentary lack of focus.”

The jury found Robertson not guilty by reason of insanity after seven hours and three minutes of deliberation on Friday.

The defendant, seated in the well of the court next to her lawyer and a family member, listened with a loop as the magistrate read the verdict.

Robertson of Stables Yard, Waterbeach, looked blank as the verdict was announced.

Louis’ parents Chris and Rachael Thorold, seated in the visitors’ gallery, looked down while Mr. Thorold shook his head.


Chris and Rachael Thorold, parents of baby Louis, arrive at Cambridge Crown Court where Shelagh Robertson is charged with causing the death of five-month-old Louis Thorold by careless driving after an accident on the A10 in Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire on January 22 to have. 2021. Picture date: Thursday August 11, 2022.

James Leonard, defending himself, told the trial it was “obvious” that Robertson’s driving “fell below the standard of a reasonable and competent driver.”

But he said her dementia left Robertson “ill-equipped to handle the crossroads” and she was unaware as she was undiagnosed at the time.

“She’s trying to be sure, but she just doesn’t have the presence of mind to be sure,” said Mr. Leonard.

Prosecutor David Matthew said in his closing speech: “There is no doubt here that Shelagh Robertson suffers from a form of dementia and was suffering from it as of January 2021.”

He said an MRI scan of Robertson’s brain, which showed shrinkage of a part of the brain linked to memory and language, taken in September or October last year was “strong evidence of that.”

But he raised the question of “where on the slope of dementia was Shelagh Robertson in January 2021”.


Handout family photo dated 22/01/2021, issued by Cambridgeshire Police, of five-month-old Louis Thorold with his mother Rachael Thorold, taken just hours before the collision. The little boy with a “joyful smile” was killed when a van pulled onto a sidewalk and rammed into his stroller. The five-month-old died after the collision on the A10 in Waterbeach on Friday, Cambridgeshire Police said. Issue date: Monday 25 January 2021.

“It’s not just about whether someone has dementia, it’s how bad it is,” he said.

Adam Zeman, a professor of cognitive behavioral neurology at the University of Exeter, was hired by defense attorneys to prepare a report on Robertson.

He told jurors the defendant had “dementia, most likely caused by Alzheimer’s disease, in a mildly atypical form.”

Prof Zeman said Robertson would have been “at high risk of becoming confused at this intersection and a possible result of the confusion would be looking the wrong way”.

The expert added that Robertson had “few close relatives” and her husband was “seriously ill,” which is significant because “it’s often your spouse who brings you along” for a dementia diagnosis. Pensioner acquitted of causing baby’s death by careless driving due to insanity

Fry Electronics Team

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