FAMILY members of two cyclists killed on the A40 by an inattentive motorist spoke of their grief as the driver who took the men’s lives walked from court.

The partner of Andy Coles, one of two men killed on June 1 last year, told Oxford Crown Court on Friday: “I lost my world.” Tracey Natale, wife of second victim Damien, said she felt like she was serving a life sentence.

VW Golf R driver Clifford Rennie, a 61-year-old company director, had been driving home from his offices in High Wycombe when he struck the two cyclists on the A40 between Studley Green and Piddington.

Mr Coles, 56, was thrown over the crash barrier and down the hill, with his shattered bicycle found wedged in a tree. Mr Natale, 52, was sent into the opposite carriageway and found around 58m from where the crash happened. Both men, who had been cycling behind one another and close to the side of the road, died instantly.

Another driver saw Rennie’s 2019-plate Golf swerve and hit the two cyclists on the crest of the hill. He said Rennie, who stopped at the scene, had been holding his head in his hands and saying ‘there’s two of them’.

The evening had been sunny and, although overhanging trees had created patches of sunlight and shade on the road, a police crash investigator concluded that Rennie should have been able to see the cyclists.

The court heard there had been a huge outpouring of grief locally for the victims of the crash, who had been keen cyclists and raised thousands for good causes.

In a victim personal statement, Mr Coles’ partner, Helen Atherton, said June 1, 2020, was a date seared in her memory as ‘beyond tragedy, beyond awful, beyond anything I can imagine’. “I lost my world,” she told the defendant.

Mr Natale’s son, Brady, told the defendant: “In that moment you didn’t look you took our family’s small bit of calm. You took our family’s stability, you took a loving husband, you took a dedicated father, you took a caring son, you took any excited grandfather.” He concluded his statement: “You don’t deserve for me to go through the pain of writing it, especially when your answer would be ‘no comment’.

Rennie could be seen in the dock clutching at his beard as Brady’s sister, Coral, told the court: “This tragedy has knocked the life out of me.” Mr Natale’s wife and childhood sweetheart, Tracey, said she felt like she was serving a ‘life sentence’.

Derek Coles said the evening of his brother’s death had been ‘nothing short of horrendous’. He described the feeling of euphoria when he learned his brother had died instantly. “It seems terrible to feel such intense relief, but we were overjoyed that he hadn’t suffered. It is the only thing I have held onto, that he was not in pain or fear as far as we know.”

Family members expressed their frustration that Rennie had not been charged with manslaughter and the delays in the case reaching court.


Damien Natale and Andy Coles Picture: TVP

Damien Natale and Andy Coles Picture: TVP


The court heard Rennie answered no comment to questions in police interviews in June and July. In his second interview he provided a prepared statement expressing his ‘heartfelt sympathy to the families of the cyclists’. Rennie, who said he was a cyclist himself, could not explain why he had not seen the two men.

In a letter to the judge, the defendant repeated his apologies and ‘sorrow’ for what had happened. He said: “I sincerely hope that the justice that will be rightly served can offer some sort of closure to the families of Mr Coles and Mr Natale and they can begin to heal.”

Mitigating, Christopher Martin said his client was ‘haunted’ by the fact he could not give his victims’ families answers about why he had not seen the two cyclists. Rennie was an industrial chemical engineer and company director who had won a Queen’s Award for innovation.

Judge Michael Gledhill QC sentenced Rennie to two years’ imprisonment suspended for two years, banned him from driving for five years and ordered he pay £475 in costs.

He told the victims’ families: “No words of mine are going to bring these men back.

“Nobody could be anything but deeply moved at hearing the impact and the effect of their loved ones’ deaths. The consequences for them, their families and friends of the deceased is truly appalling.

“Some or all of the people I have just heard from feel their lives have been destroyed. But I hope that these proceedings, now that they are about to come to an end will bring some degree of closure.

“If I could make it better for everybody concerned I would. I regret to say I can’t. I can only express my deep condolences and sympathy for each and every one of you.”

Rennie, of Wantage Road, Wallingford, pleaded guilty at High Wycombe Magistrates’ Court last month to two counts of causing death by careless driving.


Clifford Rennie leaves Oxford Crown Court

Clifford Rennie leaves Oxford Crown Court


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