Garbo thought man was 'pile of blankets'

Garbage truck driver Ian Juurik denies negligent driving causing the death of a homeless man.
Garbage truck driver Ian Juurik denies negligent driving causing the death of a homeless man.

A Sydney garbage truck driver who ran over a homeless man sleeping on a foam mattress believed it was "just a pile of blankets" dumped in a narrow laneway, a magistrate has been told.

Mathew Hayne, who was 31, 1.58-metres tall and weighed 53 kilograms, suffered multiple fractures and died instantly.

Ian Juurik, who had worked for the City of Sydney council for 17 years, has been charged with negligent driving causing Mr Hayne's death on Bourke Lane in Redfern on May 21, 2018.

"As soon as I felt the bump, I stopped," the 36-year-old told police in an interview tendered at his Downing Centre Local Court hearing on Tuesday.

The Crown alleges Juurik did not keep a proper lookout and did not take the reasonable care expected from the "ordinary, prudent driver" in the circumstances, crown prosecutor Melanie O'Connell said.

"He saw what he thought was a blanket or a quilt but it was, in fact, a foam mattress with the deceased contained within it," she said.

"He was further negligent by driving over that item ... without checking whether it was safe to do so."

Juurik's lawyer, Benjamin Goh, said the issue was whether the magistrate would be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that his client was negligent "when he decided to drive over what he thought was just a pile of blankets".

Mr Goh said "time and time again" Juurik told those attending the scene "he just thought it was blankets".

The driver's council colleagues told the court Juurik had to mount the kerb to get the truck down Bourke Lane.

"It's a very tight lane. It's one of the most difficult lanes we have in the city runs," council garbage loading trainer, Jonathon King, said.

He said locals don't observe the hard rubbish collection day so "it's a bit of an obstacle course to get through".

Fellow council truck driver, Robin Liddell, said "you'd have to get up on the gutters, no matter what" if cars were parked on the left-hand side of the street, which they were at the time of the incident.

The road is 4.65m-wide with a 45cm-wide footpath or gutter on each side, according to police measurements.

Garbage loaders Aaron Owens and Lucas Borg, who were casuals assigned to work on Juurik's truck that day, both testified they are the "eyes and ears" for the driver.

Neither man saw the mattress, Mr Hayne or something they could have mistaken for a blanket beforehand.

"I saw a man underneath the truck, curled up into a ball," Mr Owens said of the aftermath.

Outside court, the victim's mother said she'd been "looking in the wrong direction" for her eldest son but "was six months too late".

"He has a family and was well-loved," Melissa Hayne said.

"It's just shattered me but I'm here for him."

Magistrate Jennifer Giles will deliver her decision on April 1.

Australian Associated Press