A FORMER primary school teacher suspected of child abuse was killed on the eve of his trial after he crashed into a bridge when he fell asleep at the wheel, an inquest has heard.
Robert Stringer, who taught at Field End School in Eastcote, was charged with three counts of rape and eight counts of sexually touching a girl, which allegedly took place between June and December 2007.
The 56-year-old was also charged with two counts of indecently assaulting another girl, said to have taken place between 1999 and 2000.
Stringer smashed his red Peugeot 407 into a bridge parapet on the A41, near Bourne End in Hertfordshire, at 11.20pm on February 28 this year. No other vehicles were involved.
He had been due to face trial at Isleworth Crown Court the following morning.
Hertfordshire County Coroner, Edward Thomas, said a post-mortem revealed he died instantly as a result of sustaining multiple injuries.
The car had caught fire, however police confirmed the flames did not penetrate the inside of the vehicle.
The inquest, held at Hatfield Coroner's Court last Wednesday (7), heard Stringer was a full time carer to his paraplegic wife, who had been disabled for many years.
The night before the collision, he had taken his wife to hospital and had very little sleep, just dozing in a chair.
Police believe this, together with traces of alcohol – below the drink drive limit – found in his blood, caused him to fall asleep.
Police Constable Ian Marsh, forensic collision investigator for Hertfordshire Police, said Stringer was driving at 57mph on the dual carriageway and had been wearing a seatbelt, on route from his Shropshire home to stay with friends in Bushey, near Watford.
The vehicle was in good working order but there was no evidence of braking prior to the crash.
PC Marsh said: "The crash could have been caused either by him falling asleep or suffering a medical episode, but the post mortem found he had no condition that would have made him incapable of driving.
"It was close to midnight and perhaps he nodded off. The small amount of alcohol in his system could have exacerbated his tiredness."
Mr Thomas recorded a verdict of accidental death.
He said: "Mr Stringer was extremely tired, not least because he was looking after his severely disabled wife.
"There was a lot of stress on his mind and he was on a long journey and I think at the time the collision occurred, he was asleep."
Stringer was a teacher at the Eastcote school for several years before he resigned.
His brother, Ian, said: "This has been a difficult year for our family but I was very proud of my brother and everything he had done in his life.
"Whatever he was facing in his life was his business, and now he is dead."
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