THE family of cyclist Joe Wilkins said it was “devastating” to see the man who killed him cleared of causing death by dangerous driving.

Yesterday Paul Brown, of Oxford Road, Eynsham, was unanimously found not guilty by a jury at Oxford Crown Court after four hours of deliberations and a four-day trial.

He has admitted causing the 39-year-old part-time firefighter’s death through careless driving in May last year, but denied the more serious charge.

Father-of-two Mr Wilkins , also from Eynsham, died after being hit by Brown’s Ford Focus, which was travelling at 60mph in Eaton Road, near Appleton.

Throughout the trial the 30-year-old lock-keeper maintained his eyes were “firmly on the road” but did not see the cyclist until it was too late.

As the verdict was read out Brown held his head in his hands and there were tears and gasps of relief from his family in the public gallery.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Wilkins’s partner, Nicci Saunders, said: “It’s devastating. There’s nothing else we can say right now.”

Senior investigating officer Sgt Jack Hawkins said his thoughts were with the cyclist’s family and friends.

He said: “The jury of 12 members of the public decided that the circumstances of this case amounted to careless driving that caused the death of Joe Wilkins.

“I have got absolutely no doubt that Mr Brown did not set out that evening to kill anyone, but his actions have devastated a family.

“I would urge all drivers to think seriously about their driving habits and actions behind the wheel.

“Fatal road collisions are often avoidable and this case was no exception to that.”

During the trial, the defendant broke down in tears as he described the crash and denied “driving blind” before it happened.

He said: “I know I have ruined other people’s lives because of it and I’m truly sorry for that, but I just did not see him.”

Brown added that a sandwich he was holding in his left hand, with which he changed gear, did not play a part.

Recorder Andrew Burrows said a report would now be prepared to help him decide what sentence Brown should receive.

He said: “I’m not giving any indication of what the sentence may be.”

Brown was released on bail. He is due to appear to be sentenced at the court on September 3.