Driver acquitted over crash deaths

Published: Friday 13th February 2015 by The News Editor

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A young motorist accused of mowing down an elderly couple while on her iPhone has been cleared of causing death by dangerous driving.

Taylor Jay McDonnell, 21, was driving to see her boyfriend when she knocked over and killed 86-year-olds Joyce and Denis Drew.

The couple, who had been married for 54 years, were crossing a poorly-lit road near their home in Ponthir, South Wales.

The prosecution alleged that Ms McDonnell had been distracted while using her iPhone at the wheel.

However, the hairdresser told the jury at Newport Crown Court that she made a call to her grandfather while in a lay-by before switching to hands-free mode.

She broke down in tears as she recalled how the Drews came out of nowhere on a wet and dark winter night.

Her trial also heard evidence from road crash expert David Loat – a former Avon and Somerset Constabulary officer who led the investigation into a horrific Bonfire Night pile-up on the M5 which killed seven people.

Mr Loat said that the collision was unavoidable because Mr and Mrs Drew were obscured by a passing car as they crossed the road.

He said: “It is possible that both views (of Ms McDonnell and the Drews) were obstructed by that car.

“You would have got glare from the headlights … anything behind an approaching vehicle becomes very difficult to see.”

Ms McDonnell was cleared of causing death by dangerous driving and a lesser charge of causing death by careless driving.

An emotional Ms McDonnell broke down in tears as the verdict came in. She later refused to speak to reporters as she walked free from court and tried to hide her face from photographers as she left.

The Drews’ daughter Sarah England said her family was “shocked” and devastated by the not guilty verdict.

Speaking on the steps of Newport Crown Court, she said: “For our beloved parents, Joyce and Denis, we feel justice has not been done and we will never come to terms with how these two gentle souls lost their lives in such a brutal and violent way.”

A tearful Mrs England, who was flanked by sister Helen Adam, added that her family wanted the use of mobile phones when driving, even on hands-free, to be as unacceptable as drink-driving.

“The only possible good that can come out of this tragedy is to change the casual acceptance of the use of mobile phones while driving,” she added. “We would like public opinion and the law to change in the same way that it has with drink driving.”

Mrs Drew, a retired teacher, died of her “massive injuries” at Newport’s Royal Gwent Hospital just a few hours after the collision on November 13, 2013.

Her husband, a former RAF airman, died six days later.

They married after meeting on a blind date.

Published: Friday 13th February 2015 by The News Editor

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