JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Driver accused of fatally hitting cyclist appeared asleep, court told

Date

Adam Cooper

Stephanie Maher, 31, leaves court after being committed to stand trial on 10 charges including culpable driving.

Stephanie Maher, 31, leaves court after being committed to stand trial on 10 charges including culpable driving. Photo: Joe Armao

A driver accused of failing to stop after she fatally hit a cyclist was thought to be asleep at the wheel and was seen by other motorists driving erratically, a court has heard.

Stephanie Maher was seen by another driver with her head back on the head rest and with her eyes closed for several seconds while on Nepean Highway in the minutes before cyclist Julian Paul was knocked from his bike, Melbourne Magistrates Court heard on Monday.

Mr Paul, 54, suffered serious head injuries when hit in Brighton East about 9.30pm on November 26 last year. The father of two died in hospital about three weeks later.

Four drivers told the court they saw Ms Maher's silver Honda Jazz swerving across the two left-hand lanes on the south-bound side of Nepean Highway before the crash.

One motorist, Tara Henry, said she was concerned about Ms Maher's driving for several minutes and changed lanes to avoid her.

Ms Henry said at one point she saw in her rear vision mirror Ms Maher had her head back and her eyes closed and that her head also fell forward, as if she was asleep.

"There was quite a few seconds where it was completely down and then it came up," she said.

Ms Maher, 31, on Monday pleaded not guilty to 10 charges, including culpable driving, failing to stop after an accident, failing to render assistance and engaging in conduct that placed her young son, who was in the car, at danger of death.

Witness Timothy Newton said Ms Maher's car "was drifting across the road like someone had fallen asleep" seconds before the car hit Mr Paul.

The court was told Ms Maher was using the prescribed drug methadone and several anti-depressants at the time of the crash, and that the combination could have made her tired.

Dr Morris Odell, from the Victorian Institute for Forensic Medicine, said the drugs that Ms Maher was using had potential sedative effects and she should have been advised not to use them together.

"I think alarm bells should have been raised if the pharmacist was dispensing both of those things at the same time," Dr Odell said.

The court heard Ms Maher told a neighbour she drank a small glass of beer earlier that day, but Dr Odell said the alcohol should not have had an effect on her that night, provided she was using the medication as prescribed.

But police were unable to get blood and urine samples from Ms Maher after her arrest because she refused to provide samples, according to a statement by Detective Sergeant Rogan Courtis.

Dr Odell said it was impossible to determine what sort of impact the medication would have had on the accused without the sample.

In another statement tendered to court, a neighbour said Ms Maher was planning to go out to dinner when she picked up her son.

The court heard Ms Maher was seen braking after the crash, but her car did not come to a complete stop and she continued driving south. The car was later found in a car park near Patterson train station and she was arrested soon after.

Magistrate Kaye Robertson found there was sufficient evidence for Ms Maher to be found guilty and ordered her to stand trial in the County Court.

Ms Maher, of Moorabbin, had her bail extended and is due to appear in the County Court on Tuesday for a directions hearing.

Featured advertisers

Special offers

Credit card, savings and loan rates by Mozo