‘Never will there be laughter as a family’ - Drug-driver who left two girls orphaned is jailed

“Never will there be laughter as a family because of that man’s actions on that night.”

Those were the heart-breaking words of Angela Harper, whose daughter and son-in-law were killed by drug driver Luke Norton.

He was the driver of a van that collided head-on with Robert ‘Bob’ Bateman, 36, and his wife Paula, 35, of Westfield Road, Manea; both died at the scene.

Their daughters Lexi aged 10, and 18-month old Elizabeth, also in the family Ford Focus, suffered minor injuries.

Norton was jailed today at Peterborough Crown Court for eight years and eight months. He was also disqualified from driving for 14 years and four months.

Sergeant Mark Dollard said: “Many people, myself included, would struggle to think of a more truly heart-breaking case than one where two little girls lost their parents in a collision, they too were involved in.

“It is beyond belief that in 2020 we still have to talk about the dangers of drink or drug driving; doing so truly shatters lives.

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Norton, 31, had visited a friend in Lincoln on Wednesday, September 2 where he had stayed up until the early hours taking cocaine.

hE left at 7.45am and drove his company vehicle – an Iveco Daily van – whilst knowingly deprived of sleep.

Norton, of Nocton, Lincoln, worked in construction and on the day of the fatal collision was scheduled to complete three jobs.

He visited a house in St Ives to complete some work and was there until 6pm.

Norton was then due to drive to Yaxley but for reasons unknown he headed onto the A142 towards Chatteris.

His van swerved into the opposite carriageway and into the path of the Batemans’ car.

Norton failed a roadside drugs test which showed he had cocaine in his system and an evidential specimen of blood was taken at hospital.

It showed the levels of Benzoylecgonine, a cocaine breakdown product, were more than 200 microgrammes per 100 millilitres of blood. The legal limit is 50 microgrammes.

Police noticed Norton was lethargic, unable to stay awake and was falling asleep on the hospital bed.

He was arrested on suspicion of two counts of causing death by dangerous driving, and driving whilst unfit through drink or drugs.

Norton claimed he must have fallen asleep at the wheel and offered this as the only explanation as to why he swerved into the other carriageway. He said he had “ongoing struggles” with drug addiction and admitted taking class A drugs “on and off” for the last 10 years.

Angela Harper, said: “I last saw Paula and Bob the Friday before they died when we all went for a treat to KFC in March. How thankful we are to have had that special time together. “Then, on September 3, came the knock on the door that everyone dreads.

“Two young girls are now the centre of my life due to a person so irresponsible that they caused this awful event which will affect us and many others for the rest of our lives.

“The girls will have no dad to walk them down the aisle, no mum to share girlie secrets and growing up talks, and no cooking tips for all those amazing cakes she baked.

“We have indescribable pain that will never go away and this pain has rippled out to the rest of my family, to Bob’s family, and so many fantastic friends. It is not just two lives that have been taken; the lives of the many that loved them have been ripped apart.

“Elizabeth will have no memories of her amazing parents, no knowledge of how fantastic they were and how loved she was. Lexi has some memories and I’m scared that they will fade.”

John and Patricia Bateman, Robert’s parents, said: “Our world and the rest of families was totally shattered when police rang the doorbell.

“When lockdown was over, they came to visit, Paula had baked a delicious cake as usual and we got to see how big the girls had grown.

“This was the last time we saw them. We and the family miss them very, very much. They will always be with us in our hearts.”

They added: “Robert’s mam always said he gave the best hugs ever, he was a gentle giant and we all loved him.”

Sgt Dollard added: “People can help us make the roads of Cambridgeshire safer for everyone by confidentially reporting others they suspect of driving while under the influence.”

The hotline: 0800 032 0845 is available 24/7,

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