Police have released a picture of a killer van driver responsible for a fatal M4 crash that saw two young siblings lose their lives while their loving mother was badly hurt.. Martin Newman, 41, had been seen weaving across the motorway in the run-up to the crash on February 5 this year which claimed the lives of four-year-old Gracie-Ann Lucas and three-year-old Jayden-Lee Lucas, who were both also known by the surname Wheaton.
At a sentencing hearing on Friday painter and decorator Newman – who admitted two counts of causing death by dangerous driving, one of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, and charges of drink-driving and drug-driving – was jailed for nine years and four months . You can recap the hearing in full by going here.
Prosecutor Roger Griffiths outlined how dad-of-two Newman had “weaved” across the carriageway and been seen straddling lanes and touching rumble strips before drifting from lane three to the hard shoulder and colliding with a Ford Fiesta carrying the children along with their mother Rhiannon Lucas and her partner Adam Saunders, the children’s stepfather. Mr Saunders had pulled over because Gracie-Ann had complained of a bad stomach and needed to wee, the court heard.
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Eyewitnesses reported seeing Newman using his phone and driving at high speeds not long before the fatal smash, Mr Griffiths said, with one motorway user describing his actions as ” extremely dangerous consider the amount of traffic on the roadway.” Cara William, “ thought the driver was either drunk or on the phone and definitely not paying attention,” the court heard “She told her partner to overtake the van and: ‘Get out of that idiot’s way’.”
Driver Rachel Paparakis saw the crash happen. Mr Griffiths said: “She thought traffic was normal and was traveling 50mph. As she approached the slip road for junction 28 and could see a red car in the distance stationed in the hard shoulder with its hazard lights illuminated. She thought it had broken down.
“All of a sudden she described from the right hand side a white van flying past well in excess of the 70mph limit as a flash in her peripheral vision. She described the white van creeping out in front of her with no indication of braking. She thought it was going to collide in the back of a lorry but it carried on in its path towards the hard shoulder.
“To her shock the white van slammed into the red car at speed and she did not see any brake lights come on or a change in direction of travel at all. There was an almighty bang and she pulled over to the hard shoulder. There was debris everywhere, the van had spun round, and the red car was in lane one.”
Mr Griffiths said police attended and when PC Charlotte Davies arrived a member of the public marched Newman towards her and said: ‘He’s drunk’. Mr Griffiths told the court: “The defendant was put in the back of a police car and he was upset and crying and there was blood on his hands. The officer could smell alcohol on him.
“Mr Newman failed the breathalyser procedure and was arrested for causing serious injury by dangerous driving and drink-driving. He made a number of comments and said: ‘I should have been in a rush to get home, I was driving in a straight line and something clipped me’. He was slurring his words.
“He said: ‘I just want to die but that’s the coward’s way out’. He also made reference to a little girl and trying to help. He was taken to the Grange Hospital where he said ‘I want to f****** die’ and blood was taken from him. He said he was disgusted with himself and said he had the baby’s head in his hands and she died in his arms. He said ‘I’ve done some f****** s*** in my life but today I crossed a line.”
Data retrieved from the Transit revealed the brakes had been applied 2.5 seconds before impact and the van was traveling at 57mph at impact having previously been traveling at 70mph. The court heard both children suffered severe injuries including catastrophic brain injuries they were unable to survive while their mother spent a week in hospital. Her injuries included multiple liver lacerations, rib fractures, and lung bruises.
The court heard Newman was more than twice the drink-drive limit at the time of the crash while his blood also contained a substance called benzoylecgonine, which is the breakdown product of cocaine, though prosecutor presences were unable to say whether its driving would have impaired his driving.
Defense barrister Heath Edwards said his client was “remorseful and disgusted with himself”. He said: “Martin Newman knows there’s nothing he can do, no price he can pay to turn back the hands of time. He’s devastated about the heartbreak he’s brought to those who loved Gracie-Ann and Jayden-Lee . There are no excuses for what he did and there’s nothing to say beyond expressing remorse and self-disgust Mr Newman feels about himself.” Mr Edwards said his client accepted what he did and plead guilty to the defenses at the first opportunity.
He said Newman has two daughters and his incarceration will affect those who love and rely on him. The court heard the defendant remembers little of the collision and didn’t see the Fiesta. Mr Edwards said his client he momentarily fell asleep at the wheel.
As well as the jail term Newman was also disqualified from driving for 10 years with an extension of four years and eight months while he is in custody. He will be required to pass an extended driving test before being able to regain a license. The defendant will serve half of his sentence in custody before serving the rest of the sentence on license.
Last month there was a beautiful joint funeral for the siblings which saw doves released into the air and a Frozen and Spiderman theme to reflect their interests.. You can see more about this here.