A driver who fatally injured a cyclist as he inhaled ‘laughing gas’ at the wheel has been jailed.

 Harry Lock drove through a red light in Exeter while under the influence of nitrous oxide.

His BMW hit 56-year-old nurse Maria Perez-Gonzalez as she was cycling along Western Way. She was thrown onto his windscreen and suffered head injuries which led to her death two days later.

Lock, aged 24, of Shortwood Crescent, Plymouth, had been on a day out with a female friend. Shortly before the accident he had stopped to get canisters of nitrous oxide and balloons out of the boot of his car, which he filled as he drove.

He was in the act of inhaling from one of the balloons when he failed to see a red light at the junction of Western Way and Barnfield Road and hit the cyclist, who had waited for her light to turn green before joining the road.

She was a Mexican-born mother-of-three who worked as a nurse and whose children wrote impact statements detailing their devastation at her loss.

Her death sparked anger from other cyclists, who organised a protest in which 200 of them walked their bikes through the centre of Exeter before lying down and pretending to be dead at the scene of the accident.

 Speaking at the time, Mike Walton, from the Exeter Cycling Campaign, said the vigil was intended to 'underline how vulnerable our roads can be for people walking and cycling'.

At Exeter Crown Court Lock admitted causing death by dangerous driving. He was jailed for three years and four months and banned from driving for two years after his release by Judge David Evans.

The judge told him: ”You chose to inhale nitrous oxide from up to three canisters and stopped your vehicle to access them. You inflated the balloons and inhaled the gas. There were many points along the way at which you could and should have stopped this foolish activity.

“The nitrous oxide impaired your judgment and slowed your reactions. That is particularly noxious in relation to a driving offence. You made efforts to tidy up the car and showed moral cowardice in asking your passenger to say the light was green.

Mr Joss Ticehurst, prosecuting, said the accident happened at around 8.30 pm on August 7, 2021, and inquiries showed that the light had been at red for seven seconds before Lock drove through it.

He was driving within the speed limit and should have seen the light from 130 metres away. His passenger told police that at one stage in his journey he had used his knees to steer while using both hands to fill a balloon with the gas.

Mr Daniel Pawson-Pounds, defending, said Lock had consumed only three canisters at most and his driving had otherwise been normal and legal. He was only 21 at the time, and has no other convictions and excellent references from employers, friends and family.

Miss Perez-Gonzalez’s three sons have paid tribute to her. They said in a statement: “Maria Perez-Gonzalez was a loving, caring mum to Edgar, Chris and Jorge who desperately miss her.

 “She was an incredible person who accomplished amazing things in life, who was going to achieve so much more. A year away from reuniting with her oldest son, Edgar, after 20 years. She was a remarkable woman that helped whoever surrounded her.

“She had been through difficult times but always stayed positive, even in the face of the extreme adversity, testament to her strength and courage. She was a health care assistant at the RD&E, just about to embark on a university nursing course before she was so cruelly taken.”