AN OXFORDSHIRE pensioner was killed on his 86th birthday in a head on crash with a speeding driver taking a conference call, an inquest heard yesterday.

Rajiv Mathew, who also died in the collision, was on a call with his colleagues and driving almost 20mph over the speed limit when his car swerved as he approached a blind summit on the A4260 near Deddington, smashing into the oncoming car of David Wotherspoon, from Duns Tew, near Bicester. 

The married 36-year-old IT engineer, from Reading, Berkshire, was killed instantly and retired lorry driver Mr Wotherspoon was taken to hospital with serious injuries, dying three days later.

In a join inquest into the two men's deaths at Oxford Coroner's Court, Oxfordshire assistant coroner Nicholas Graham heard that Mr Mathew planned to be late into work on March 22 this year, and took the routine conference call at the wheel of his Toyota Auris.

He was driving along the A4260 towards Banbury near Deddington, and police forensic analysis of the car's airbag system concluded that he was travelling at speeds in excess of 78mph in a 60mph zone.

He lost control approaching a blind summit and crossed into the path of oncoming Mr Wotherspoon, hitting his Ford Focus almost head-on.

The impact of the crash forced his car to come to rest on a field.

Police were unable to determine whether Mr Mathew had been holding his phone or using handsfree kit but said that the collision would have been inevitable because of the speed Mathew was travelling, the inquests in Oxford heard.

PC Adrian White, forensic collision investigator for Thames Valley Police, said: "The suggestion is that during the course of that conversation, I think it is likely that he was on that phone.

"What I can not say is whether that call was conducted while he was holding his phone of if it was hands free, but as he was going over the hill it was in excess speed.

He added: "There is evidence to support that Mathew was travelling in excess of the 78mph while engaged in a telephone call but the speed alone was enough to lose control of the vehicle."

Mr Wotherspoon's wife of 56 years Marian attended told the court, which heard he had been out to collect some medication when his car was struck by Mr Mathew.

Recording a conclusion of death by road traffic collision for both men, Mr Graham said: "Travelling at speed while engaged in a mobile telephone call, Rajid Mathew lost control of his vehicle and collided with another vehicle travelling in the opposite direction.

"He suffered severe blunt head injuries.

"While travelling southbound, a vehicle drove into David Wotherspoon's path resulting in a collision.

"He was taken to John Radcliffe Hospital but his condition sadly deteriorated."