A 74-year-old motorist will learn on Friday how long he will stay behind bars for killing a motorcyclist.

Americo Barbecane, driving an Alfa Romeo, tried to overtake two cars as all three approached a blind bend and crashed head-on into Paul Sprakes, 41, who was on his way home to Sherburn-in-Elmet and riding correctly, York Crown Court heard.

Barbecane was convicted on Thursday of unanimously causing death by dangerous driving.

His barrister Mark McKone tried to persuade Judge Guy Kearl QC to allow him bail to “say goodbye to his family and friends” and to put his affairs in order.

But the judge replied: “He has had 15 months to do that.”

Mr Sprakes died on August 21, 2014, on the B1222 between Sherburn-in-Elmet and the A1.

Barbecane, of Leeds, denied causing death by dangerous driving and claimed that the collision was caused by him sneezing at the wrong moment.

Adjourning sentence until Friday, the judge said: “This is not a straightforward sentencing exercise. A custodial sentence is inevitable. I wish to have some time to consider the proper sentence.”

The defence handed in a psychiatric report and other documents. Mr Sprakes’ widow has sent the court a victim personal statement on the impact of her husband’s death upon her.


A driver accused of killing a motorcyclist by a dangerous overtaking manoeuvre has claimed the collision was caused by him sneezing.

Americo Barbacane alleged the sneeze happened after he had passed a black Astra and was steering his Alfa Romeo back onto the correct side of the road .

Giving evidence, the 74-year-old alleged: "Everything exploded like a kind of bomb. Everything exploded and was driving by itself the car, I didn't see anything. When I came out, the car went to the right into the field. It went over the ditch."

Barbacane, of Leeds, whose native language is Italian, gave evidence in English with the assistance of a translator. 

He alleged he never saw Paul Sprakes, the 41-year-old Sherburn-in-Elmet motorcyclist approaching him on the correct side of the road, and was unaware that he had fatally hit him until he was told so in hospital.

"Did you at any stage do anything which you thought was dangerous?" his barrister Mark McKone asked him.

He replied "No". 

Barbacane denies causing Mr Sprakes' death by dangerous driving on the B1222 between Sherburn-in-Elmet and the A1 on August 21, 2014. 

He alleged that before he set out on the journey he had been accidentally covered in pepper when it fell off a cupboard shelf as he was helping a friend unpack her shopping and that it had caused him to sneeze.

He denied that he had been needled by the black Astra overtaking him just after the two cars left Sherburn-in-Elmet and that he had tried to overtake it in revenge and a second Astra as all three approached a blind bend. 

He claimed the black Astra had always been ahead of him and that he had never seen a silver Astra ahead of it. 

The trial continues.



A 74-YEAR-OLD driver killed a motorcyclist when he allegedly tried to overtake two cars at once on a blind bend, York Crown Court heard.

Americo Barbacane was driving an Alfa Romeo along the B1222 when it hit a motorbike ridden by Sherburn-in-Elmet computer programmer Paul Sprakes, Andrew Dallas, prosecuting, said.

The 74-year-old is expected to claim the collision was caused by him sneezing, but the prosecution allege that he shouldn’t have tried to overtake at that point because he couldn’t see round the bend, which had double white lines in the middle of the road, preceded by arrows urging drivers to keep to their correct side of the road.

Mr Sprakes, a married man, died at the scene. He was on his way home when the crash happened mid-afternoon on August 21, 2014, between Sherburn-in-Elmet and the A1.

Mr Dallas alleged that Vicky Hill was driving behind Mr Sprakes as they approached the bend.

“She will tell you she could see no way how the motorcyclist could have avoided the collision and that he was at all times properly positioned on his side of the road,” he claimed in his opening speech to the jury.

Barbacane, of Leeds, denies causing death by dangerous driving.

Mr Dallas claimed Barbacane had been tail-gating an Astra driven by Kyle Hughes at about 60mph for some distance after both cars left Sherburn-in-Elmet and that from time to time he was moving out as though he was looking to overtake.

Mr Hughes alleged in the witness box that Barbacane’s driving was “erratic” and that he felt “very nervous. I thought he was going to hit me”.

After he caught up with his work colleague Chris Pacevitch, there was no room for any car to pull in between them, he claimed.

As all three cars approached the blind left-hand bend, the Alfa Romeo moved out and as they moved into the bend, he saw a motorcyclist coming the other way.

Asked what was the next thing he remembered, he alleged: “Hearing a massive bang and seeing his car in the field. But I couldn’t see the motorbike.”

Mr Dallas alleged: “It is entirely possible that during this trial the defendant may claim the collision had in some way been caused by an involuntary sneeze.” But Barbacane had not mentioned sneezing to anyone at the scene of the crash, or in police interviews some months later, he claimed.

The trial continues.