A WIDOW whose husband was killed by a driver in a crash near Dorchester said it feels like the 'heart has been ripped out of the family'.

Andrea Miller spoke out after Derek Edward Cheney was sentenced after pleading guilty to causing death by careless driving at Weymouth Magistrates Court on Friday.

Cheney, aged 63, of North Park, Frampton, was sentenced to a community order and disqualified from driving for two years.

The court heard Cheney, who was driving a Fiat on the B3147 near Weirs roundabout, struck Paul Miller as he was cycling home to Dorchester on the evening of January 8.

Husband and father Mr Miller, who was the headteacher of St Andrew's Primary School in Yetminster and due to celebrate his 47th birthday the following day, died at the scene.

The court heard Cheney did not see Mr Miller on the dark road, even though keen cyclist Mr Miller was wearing high visibility clothing and had lights on his bike.

He was riding on the road rather than on the cycle path but magistrates were told there were 'seven seconds of opportunity' in which Cheney should have seen him.

Speaking after the case, PC Craig Redmond, of Dorset Police’s Traffic Unit, said: “Paul was cycling home, wearing high visibility clothing and lights on his bicycle, but sadly Mr Cheney’s lack of awareness for other road users led to this tragic and avoidable collision.

“I would like to remind all motorists to be aware of other road users and give themselves plenty of time to respond to any obstacles ahead.

“Had Mr Cheney done this, Paul would still be alive today.”

Cheney was told he will have to take an extended re-test after his driving ban has finished before he would be considered for a new licence. He was made the subject of a six-month curfew in which he will have to stay at home between 9pm and 6am and he will be required to wear a tag.

Mitigating, Charles Row told magistrates Cheney had "genuine remorse" and was "haunted" by the accident that killed Mr Miller.

Mr Row said: "Mr Cheney is acutely aware of the seriousness of the matter and the profound impact on the victim's family. This is something that will haunt him for the rest of his life. Nothing that I say can reflect the devastation that must be felt by Mrs Miller and her family and friends. Mr Cheney has done all his can in the circumstances to lessen the impact by simply pleading guilty at the earliest opportunity."

The court was told Cheney had been travelling to see his wife who he is amicably separated from and that he wasn't driving at an excessive speed.

Mr Row added: "He is a respectable man who made a terrible, terrible mistake."

The court was told that Cheney sufferers from bipolar disorder and the day after the accident he was admitted into a mental health ward for six to eight weeks.

Cheney was also ordered to pay a £145 victim surcharge and court costs.

In a statement released after the case, Mr Miller's wife Andrea said: “On the night of January 8 my husband Paul was offered a lift home from work by a friend who works at the school. He turned down this offer as he loved his cycle home. It helped him to relax and seemed to be an excellent way to build exercise into his daily routine.

“Although it was dark, he was not concerned. He took cycling safety and visibility very seriously, as any of his school students will tell you: he often walked around the school in his high vis jacket, which even had a built in rear light which flashed, as well as always using a rear light on his bike.

“I have driven behind him in the dark on several occasions and he was so highly visible that I had no fears for his safety.

“The police investigation found that there were seven seconds of full visibility of the road ahead, with no oncoming traffic, in which the driver should have seen Paul on his bike and overtaken him safely, preventing tragedy and heartbreak.

“It was Paul’s 47th birthday on the following day and we planned to go out for a meal to celebrate. What happened instead was a nightmare that has continued ever since.

“Paul was a highly devoted husband, father, son and brother. He was a loyal friend. He saw the best in everyone and brought out the best in those around him. He was an excellent and inspirational headteacher.

“This year would have been our 20th wedding anniversary. Without Paul, it feels like the heart has been ripped out of our family. It is impossible to express how much we miss him.”