Bin shed in Northolt

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Paul Abbott died when he was pinned against a bin shed by the 26-tonne lorry

A binman saved the life of a colleague by pushing him out of the way of a runaway rubbish lorry before he was crushed by it, a court has heard.

Paul Abbott died when he was pinned against a bin shed by the 26-tonne lorry in north London in December 2018.

Robert Atkins, 26, of Ealing Road, Brentford, previously admitted causing death by careless driving after he failed to secure the hand brake.

Appearing at the Old Bailey, he was handed a suspended prison sentence.

Prosecutor Deanna Heer told the court Atkins had worked as a refuse lorry driver since May 2018.

‘Constantly troubled’

He had been driving the truck during the early morning round in Northolt on 4 December 2018 while his colleagues collected refuse, but then failed to put the hand brake on properly when he left the cab.

As the truck rolled towards them, 59-year-old Mr Abbott pushed another colleague out of the way before he was struck by it, causing severe crush injuries, the Old Bailey heard.

Atkins, who lost his job and has not driven a lorry since, had initially denied causing death by careless driving but pleaded guilty in April.

In a letter to the judge, he said how sorry he was for what had happened, saying how he was “constantly troubled by the fact I could not save Paul”.

“I know I put the handbrake on but I’m guilty of failing to ensure it engaged properly,” he wrote.

‘Sacrificed his own life’

During his sentencing remarks, Judge Nigel Lickley QC paid tribute to Mr Abbott saying he had done “a truly selfless thing”.

By pushing his colleague out of the way, the father-of five “probably sacrificed his own life” which was “testament to who Paul Abbott was”, he said.

Atkins was sentenced to eight months in custody, suspended for two years.

He was also ordered to do 80 hours of unpaid work and disqualified from driving for 18 months.

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