A VAN driver who careered onto the pavement and sent a road sign crashing down onto a woman's head has been convicted of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

Roller shutter engineer Daniel Gardner had denied committing the offence, claiming he had no choice and had to drive on the pavement to escape men who were being aggressive and threatening him with a knife.

But a jury at Bolton Crown Court did not believe his lies and, following a three-day trial, took just 36 minutes to unanimously find him guilty.

Gardner, aged 32, of Moorfield Grove, Bolton, will be sentenced on November 5.

The court had heard how victim, 39-year-old Louise Owen, with her two sons, had just left a carpet shop at the junction of Wellington Street and Albert Road, Farnworth, when Gardner, at the wheel of a Renault Trafic van, rounded the blind corner on the pavement at just after 3.45pm on January 15 last year.

His van hit a street sign, which buckled and fell onto her head. Ms Owen suffered catastrophic injuries, including multiple skull and facial fractures, plus a bleed on the brain, and was in hospital for three weeks.

Gardner did not stop, instead dumping his work van, which had a damaged tyre due to the impact, half a mile away in Presto Street, before walking to his girlfriend's home in Little Hulton.

It was only after he had received a phone call from his boss to say that police wanted to get in touch with him that he finally called them at 6.10pm, reporting that he had been in fear of his life as he had been chased by a man with a knife.

Gardner claimed he could not have called earlier as his phone battery had died, but, when questioned by Rob Hall, prosecuting, admitted he had made calls to friends instead of dialling 999 shortly after the collision, at a time when he claimed to have been afraid of being hurt.

The court had heard how Gardner had hit a parked, flat-bed recovery truck on Gas Street shortly before the collision, damaging its wing mirror, but did not stop to exchange insurance details.

“I should have stopped but I didn’t,” Gardner admitted.

The lorry set off after the van and when it was held up in traffic on Wellington Street, passengers Ashley Bradley and Lee Blackshaw got out to speak to Gardner.

They told the jury how they tried the locked doors of the van and asked for insurance details but the driver told them to "f*** off" and Mr Bradley described how he had to jump out of the way as the van's engine revved and Gardner set off.

Mr Bradley ran after the van as it neared the junction with Albert Road and Gardner, whose way was blocked by a Volvo in front of him, mounted the pavement and squeezed his vehicle between the car and a shop wall.

CCTV footage showed the van hitting a street sign and it toppling onto Ms Owen, who was knocked to the ground.