Driver jailed for killing ‘gentle giant’ cyclist
The screams of David Halliwell's children learning their father had been killed will haunt his heartbroken wife for the rest of her life.
After seeing his GPS tracker was at a standstill, Desley Halliwell called her husband three times while he laid dead on the side of Steve Irwin Way on September 14 last year.
Tahlia Cheri Melville had been tailgating the car in front of her for 10 minutes before she hit and killed Mr Halliwell, 62, who was riding his bike with a friend at Landsborough.
The 21-year-old woman sat in the dock at Maroochydore District Court on Friday to hear how her actions had shattered the lives of his relatives, four of which read statements to the court.
"I was about to leave and find out what was wrong when the police arrived at our door," Mrs Halliwell said.
"I refused to believe that it was him who was tragically taken then they gave me his wedding ring and I knew it was true.
"After half an hour of pulling myself together I then had the unimaginable task of telling our children and family.
"Neither of our children live on the Coast and I shall never forget the screaming of our children down the phone."
Crown prosecutor Will Slack told the court Mr Halliwell had been headed for Mooloolaba, riding single-file "well outside" the fog line due to heavy traffic.
"Prior to the offence, the defendant was tailgating the car in front of her and she was drifting the left side of her car out across the left fog line while doing that," Mr Slack said.
"She was doing that for about five to 10 seconds at a time but continuously for about 10 minutes leading up to the collision."
Melville had been on her way to work in Caloundra.
The court heard she called triple-0 about 8.30am and told the operator she had clipped a cyclist.
She was arrested and charged a month later upon attending Maroochydore Police Station.
Mr Slack told Judge Glen Cash an appropriate sentence would be three years' jail, to serve one third in actual custody.
"It is submitted that a (licence) disqualification of not less than two years would be appropriate," Mr Slack said.
He said Melville also breached a condition of bail on March 20 this year when she failed to report to Beerwah police.
The court heard she didn't attend the station due the outbreak of coronavirus in Australia.
Melville on Friday pleaded guilty to one count of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death and one count of breaching bail.
She had no criminal or traffic history.
Defence barrister Matt Jackson read from a letter written by Melville.
"I want to say that I am sorry but I know that there are no amount of words that can remedy the pain that I have caused to all those who held David close," Melville said in her letter.
"I can only express my sincerest remorse for my actions."
Mr Jackson said the crash scene was tragic for all involved and reiterated the remorse of his client who was a former Beerwah High School student.
"She called triple-zero herself, she called her mother and she stayed to answer questions from the forensic crash investigator," Mr Jackson said.
The court heard Melville had completed the Queensland Traffic Offenders Program.
Mr Jackson tendered a psychologist report outlining PTSD Melville had suffered since the incident.
He agreed with Mr Slack's submission that a head sentence of three years was appropriate, but said it should be wholly suspended.
Mr Cash said he accepted Melville was sorry for the harm she had caused and considered the steps she had taken towards rehabilitation including the QTOP course.
He said he had to impose a sentence that would deter others from similar offences and denounce her behaviour.
"The conduct that led to the offence that I'm primarily concerned with can properly be considered to be isolated and unlikely to be repeated," Mr Cash said.
Melville was sentenced to three years' jail, suspended for three years after serving nine months.
She was disqualified from driving for two years.
Outside court, Mr Halliwell's daughter Jayne Stevenson said she hoped no other family would be forced to lose a loved one "in such a senseless crime".
She described him as a "gentle giant" who was a safe and courteous cyclist.