TWO drivers and a passenger in one of the cars which were used as weapons during a high-speed pursuit in south Warwickshire, ending in the death of an innocent pensioner, have been jailed.
Eighty-year-old Elizabeth Roberts was travelling with her daughter on the B4451 at Gaydon when a BMW heading the wrong way down the dual carriageway ploughed head-on into them.
The tragic crash was the culmination of pursuits over a distance of nine miles, during which the BMW hit a Ford Fiesta it had been chasing and was itself then rammed by a VW Jetta.
It was that which led BMW driver Sagar Taseem to turn and head the wrong way along the B4511 at 60mph, and there was nothing Mrs Roberts’ daughter Sheena Wilson could do to avoid the impact.
Taseem, aged 28, of Evenlode, Banbury, and his passenger Naqash Hussain, aged 29, of Prescott Avenue, Banbury, have both been jailed for 12 years and banned from driving for nine years.
They had denied causing 80-year-old Mrs Roberts’ death in February 2017 by dangerous driving – but were both convicted following a trail at Warwick Crown Court.
Jetta driver Samuel Franklin, aged 24, of Warkworth Close, Banbury, who admitted the same charge and gave evidence for the prosecution, was jailed for six years and banned for six years.
The jury had heard the events began when Taseem and Hussain in the BMW began chasing a Ford Fiesta driven by Kieran Flint, aged 21, of Barley Hill, Banbury, on the outskirts of the town.
As Flint, who was cleared of dangerous driving but found guilty of careless driving and fined £500, headed north along the B4100 he contacted his friend Franklin for help.
Flint then stopped in the middle of the road as Franklin, coming in the opposite direction in his Jetta, stopped alongside, forcing the BMW to stop, said prosecutor Simon Davis.
Franklin got out armed with a metal bar and went towards the BMW, but Taseem drove into the back of Flint’s Fiesta and then forced his way past, scraping down its side, before speeding off.
As Flint stopped for petrol, the BMW and the Jetta were then involved in a pursuit during which they went through a red light to turn right onto the B4511 dual carriageway.
Meanwhile Mrs Wilson was heading towards the M40 on her way back to her home in Warwick after collecting Mrs Roberts from her home in Edgehill – and she remarked to her mother that she was glad they were in front of her.
But Franklin then rammed the BMW, after which Taseem turned and sped the wrong way back down the dual carriageway.
There was nothing Mrs Wilson could do to avoid a head-on smash as the BMW hurtled back towards her Fiesta in the wrong direction, and her mother suffered fatal injuries in the crash.
But determined to continue the feud, Franklin drove to the scene of the crash and, ignoring the tragic consequences, got out of his car and chased after Taseem and Hussain as they fled.
He then returned to his car and drove to the petrol station when he met up with Flint and they went searching for the other two men, leading to a further brief confrontation.
In a statement read in court, Mrs Wilson said: “The memory of that night and my mother being in severe pain will remain with me for the rest of my days.”
And she observed at no point in their evidence or statements had any of the defendants expressed remorse.
Judge Sylvia de Bertodano commented: “This is aggressive driving over a long period of time when both sides are using their cars as weapons.”
Brett Weaver for Taseem, who should not have been behind a wheel because he was banned from driving and has epilepsy, said: “He remains deeply remorseful for his actions on that day because he caused the death of a much-loved and very valued woman.”
But Judge de Bertodano remarked: “I cannot tell you how hollow those words are for those of us who have sat here for three weeks listening to the evidence in this case.”
Esther Schutzer-Weissmann, for Hussain, whose previous convictions include three offences of dangerous driving, asked the judge to take account of the fact that he was not the driver.
John Lyons, for Franklin, said: “Turning into oncoming traffic is a freestanding decision by the co-defendants, but it is clear he has to take his share of responsibility for a chain of events which lead to a fatal accident.”
Jailing the three, Judge de Bertodano told them: “It is an ironic aspect of this case that as they went past the Gaydon garage Mrs Wilson saw two cars speeding past, taking a roundabout the wrong way, and her first thought was that there was going to be an accident and she was glad she wouldn’t be involved because they were ahead of her.
“But she and her mother never got as far as the motorway because a white BMW driven by Taseem drove up the same road in the face of oncoming traffic and collided head-on with her car.
“Mrs Wilson was present as her mother lay dying at the roadside, while the three of you, not hesitating to help, continued your chase.
“Mr Taseem, you and Mr Hussain had started to chase Mr Flint way back. We don’t know why you did that, none of you was prepared to tell us, but Mr Flint called you Mr Franklin to help, and you set out to find them.
“You Mr Franklin struck the BMW, and the BMW then turned, and you Mr Taseem and Mr Hussain headed back through traffic. You were going as fast as you possibly could, with no regard for other road-users and it was inevitable someone would get hit.
“It is mere good fortune that only one person was killed. It could have been much, much worse, and it is no thanks to any of you that it was not.
“I take the view that the remorse you have expressed is remorse for the situation you find yourselves in.
“This was a prolonged, persistent and deliberate course of very bad driving, and I have no doubt that you Mr Taseem were under the influence of cannabis when you were driving in this way.
“In cases such as this when young men use their cars as weapons in fights between each-other with a total disregard for innocent road-users who are put at risk, and where someone is killed, those cases will attract very lengthy sentences indeed.”
Sentencing Franklin separately, Judge de Bertodano said she would give him credit for his plea and for giving evidence for the prosecution, but told him: “In your own words shortly afterwards, you ‘made the BMW have a head-on.’”