Driver thought homeless man was blankets
A GARBAGE truck driver who ran over an emaciated homeless man sleeping in a Sydney laneway after mistaking him for a pile of blankets has been cleared of negligent driving causing death.
Ian Juurik, 36, had denied the charge in Downing Centre Local Court after the incident on Bourke Lane in Redfern during the morning bin run on May 21, 2018. Mathew Hayne, who was 31, 1.58 metres tall and weighed 53 kilograms, was run over while sleeping on a thin foam mattress in the street.
He suffered multiple fractures and died at the scene.
"It appears to him (Mr Juurik) as a blanket with no appearance of containing anyone, no bulge and no movement," magistrate Jennifer Giles said on Monday. "I don't believe that can amount to falling short of the standard of care ... to be expected of the ordinary, prudent driver in these circumstances and I'm finding Mr Juurik not guilty." She said the garbage truck driver was "almost sobbing" when he phoned triple- zero and later engaged in a "most distressing" recorded interview with police in which he repeatedly stated "it just looked like a blanket".
"Mr Juurik is utterly guileless and completely unguarded in everything he tells the police. I don't believe anyone could doubt anything that Mr Juurik says in his record of interview," Ms Giles said.
"After watching it a number of times, I did even wonder whether he was in a fit state to be interviewed, it is so full and frank and distressed. You couldn't doubt it." She described the "miserable circumstances" as "utterly unique". Mr Juurik held his head in his hands and wiped tears from his eyes when the magistrate delivered her decision.
"I'm just glad this is all over. It's been very tough," he told reporters outside court.
"It's been life-changing." The victim's mother last month said she'd been "looking in the wrong direction" for her eldest son but "was six months too late".
"He has a family and was well-loved," Melissa Hayne said.