Taxi driver Jerome Lee who is facing one count of death by careless driving

Taxi driver Jerome Lee who is facing one count of death by careless driving

Taxi driver Jerome Lee who is facing one count of death by careless driving

A hair salon boss whose clientele included footballers and royalty was killed when a taxi driver carelessly made a U-turn in the road without indicating, a court heard.

Claire Berretti, 45, was riding pillion on a red Ducati motorcycle at 40mph when it crashed into a silver cab being driven by Jerome Lee, 72, in Clerkenwell, central London.

Ms Berretti, who had worked at Sejour hair salon in Chelsea since 2004, was thrown into the air and suffered catastrophic head injuries.

The motorbike was being ridden at twice the 20mph limit by celebrity hair stylist Shaun Hoffman, who has since pleaded guilty to speeding, the Old Bailey heard.

Lee, who is on trial for causing death by careless driving, later told police he thought the road was clear because he saw the traffic lights were red as he drove south down Farringdon Road.

But he did not realise the lights were green for northbound traffic, jurors were told.

Prosecutor Joel Smith told the Old Bailey: ‘He was wrong and he was careless. He executed a U-turn into oncoming traffic and the two vehicles collided.

‘It seems he did not indicate. He was required to do this. 

‘This alone speaks of the carelessness of the manoeuvre. He executed one continuous manoeuvre without stopping and there was a collision.

Ms Berretti, who had worked at the salon in Chelsea since 2004, suffered catastrophic injuries in the crash

Ms Berretti, who had worked at the salon in Chelsea since 2004, suffered catastrophic injuries in the crash

Ms Berretti was riding pillion on the red Ducati when it collided with the taxi being driven by Mr Lee

Ms Berretti was riding pillion on the red Ducati when it collided with the taxi being driven by Mr Lee

Ms Berretti was riding pillion on the red Ducati when it collided with the taxi being driven by Mr Lee

‘Ms Berretti was thrown a considerable distance and suffered catastrophic injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene.’

The collision happened at around 8.45pm on February 21 last year.

Lee had picked up a fare and was driving a family towards their home on Farringdon Road.

As he approached the junction the passengers asked him to drop them off on the other side of the road.

Mr Smith told jurors: ‘He decided he was going to conduct a U-turn.

‘It is legal to do a U-turn on the Farringdon Road though you may think that it is a manoeuvre that requires some care in its execution.’

The motorcycle was travelling at 40mph and was between 22 and 28 metres away when Lee made the U-turn, the court heard.

Giving evidence today Mr Hoffman said: ‘I was heading towards the traffic lights and the road was clear except for oncoming traffic.

‘When I crossed the junction the taxi done a U-turn in front of the bike. Sadly Claire and I collided with the taxi.’

He said he got to his feet and saw Claire lying unconscious up the road. He rejected the suggestion the cab driver was indicating, and said: ‘I would have seen that, I was looking straight ahead.’

The court heard he was wearing a helmet fitted with an ‘illegal’ tinted visor at the time of the crash, the court heard.

Mr Hoffman told jurors he did not realise the tinted visor was inappropriate for use in both daytime and nighttime.

Celebrity hair stylist Shaun Hoffman who was riding the motorcycle in the crash at twice the legal limit. He has pleaded guilty to speeding

Celebrity hair stylist Shaun Hoffman who was riding the motorcycle in the crash at twice the legal limit. He has pleaded guilty to speeding

Claire Berretti was the manager of exclusive hair salon Sejour which had a long list of celebrity clients

Claire Berretti was the manager of exclusive hair salon Sejour which had a long list of celebrity clients

Celebrity hair stylist Shaun Hoffman (left) who was riding the motorcycle in the crash at twice the legal limit. Ms Berretti (right) was the manager of exclusive hair salon Sejour which had a long list of celebrity clients

He said he could not remember whether he was using the tinted visor or the clear visor underneath. 

One witnesses told police Claire Berretti ‘somersaulted’ down the road after the crash. She was thrown 18.6 metres from the point of impact.

Lee wrongly told police at the scene the crash happened on his side of the road, it is claimed.

The cab driver said: ‘The motorbike was going very fast and hit the front of my taxi.’

In a prepared statement he said: ‘I expected it to drive past me and up the road. I was stunned when it rode into my front wing.’

An investigator concluded that if the motorcycle had kept to the 20mph speed limit it is likely the collision could have been avoided and death would have been extremely unlikely, jurors heard.

‘You may well feel that Mr Hoffman himself is at fault to a significant degree for the collision which led to the death of Ms Berretti.

‘This does not however mean the defendant’s own careless driving was not also a cause of the death.

‘The defendant pulled in front of the Ducati and his actions were also a significant cause of the collision.’

Ms Berretti came to London from Ayr in Scotland nearly 20 years ago and lived in Battersea, south London.

Customers of Sejour included members of the British and Saudi royal families and former England and Liverpool midfielder Mark Walters was among those who paid tribute to Ms Berretti.

Lee, of Edgware, west London, denies causing death by careless driving.

The trial continues. 

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