Gosport girls’ deaths: Sam Etherington jailed for nine years

Samuel Etherington
Samuel Etherington
Bob Higgins at an earlier court hearing  Picture Habibur Rahman/Solent News

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A MAN who caused the deaths of two teenagers following a crash in Gosport has been jailed for nine years.

Samuel Etherington, 20, had taken drugs and was travelling at more than twice the 30mph speed limit when his souped up green Honda Civic hit Jasmine Allsop and Olivia Lewry.

Etherington was driving on the wrong side of the road when he hit the best friends at about 65mph as they stood near the middle of the road with their arms around each other, Winchester Crown Court heard.

Jasmine, 14, who lived yards from where the crash happened near the Ann’s Hill Road junction with Brougham Street at about 4.15am on November 3, died at the scene.

Olivia, 16, was taken to hospital where she later died.

Unemployed sports coach Etherington, of Stoners Close, Gosport, who was unhurt, had denied two counts of manslaughter.

However he was today jailed after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) accepted his guilty plea to two counts of causing death by dangerous driving.

Prosecutor Nicholas Haggan QC said the CPS had decided it was not in the public interest to pursue the manslaughter charges.

The court heard Etherington knew both girls, who were at a party at Jasmine’s house on the night of the crash.

He had taken a friend home in the area and was described by witnesses as ‘red lining’ - revving the engine of his Honda - which had lowered suspension and a special exhaust designed to make it noisier.

Witnesses said that Jasmine and Olivia had run into the road and shouted abuse towards Etherington as he drove past towards a railway bridge.

The court heard the girls were standing in the road as he drove back towards them.

A friend said he shouted at Jasmine and Olivia to get out of the road but they didn’t move.

Jasmine died instantly of multiple injuries and was flung to the junction of Clifton Street on impact.

Olivia was rendered unconscious.

She was taken to hospital where she died of head injuries later that morning.

A reconstruction of the crash suggested the girls were facing away from the railway bridge when the crash happened.

Prosecutor Mr Haggan QC said: ‘This defendant deliberately drove at the two girls, perhaps intending to frighten them because they had been shouting abuse at him when he had passed by in the opposite direction a short time before, of perhaps simply because he was showing off.

‘The defendant could have stopped before the collision had he chosen to do so.

‘Instead he continued to accelerate, he drove at the girls, leaving it far too late to brake or swerve around them.

‘The vehicle struck the girls at high speed, resulting in their tragic deaths.’

Etherington fled the scene, later telling police he feared for his safety.

He drove to a nearby garage, called police and was arrested.

He later said he had been driving at 35mph but slowed to 30mph as he approached the girls.

However a black box fitted in his car for insurance purposes revealed he was driving at 61mph, sped up to 71mph and was travelling at about 65 mph at the point of impact.

Tests revealed he had taken horse tranquilliser ketamine and mephedrone in the 24 hours before the crash.

But there is no evidence his drug consumption impaired his driving, the court heard.

Etherington also claimed Olivia had been playing ‘chicken’ and had run into the road, and that Jasmine had run over to her.

It is the prosecution’s case that the girls had been standing together near the white line.

The court heard Etherington now accepted ‘full responsibility’ for his actions and did not seek to blame the girls in any way.

Mr Haggan said of the impact on Jasmine and Olivia’s families: ‘As one would expect, their words depict in heart-rending terms the agony and the devastation caused by the deaths of their daughters taken away from them at so young an age.

‘They have expressed a sense of loss and desolation that they and the other members of their families have felt every day of their lives since their daughters were killed.

‘They speak of their anger that this should have happened as a result of the senseless actions of this defendant, who in a few moments took away from them two lives so precious and irreplaceable.’

The court heard Etherington had two previous motoring convictions and had previously been banned from driving.

He was convicted of driving without due care and attention, failing to stop for a police officer and using a vehicle with defective tyres exactly two years before the crash that claimed Jasmine and Olivia’s lives.

Etherington had been banned from driving pending a re-test after being caught speeding on a motorway at 92mph in January 2012.

He had got his driving licence back nine months before the crash.

Oba Nsugbe QC, defending, said Etherington still has nightmares in which he sees one of his victims.

Mr Nsugbe said: ‘Whatever sentence he receives will not serve as a punishment, his true punishment being what is in his head.’

He added: ‘He wishes that it was his life that was lost and not that of those two young girls.’

Judge Guy Boney QC, sentencing, described Etherington as a ‘menace behind the steering wheel.’

Etherington was also banned from driving for seven years and must pass an extended retest before getting his licence back.

Judge Boney QC said: ‘For you the sentence that has to be passed is a life-changing event.

‘For your two victims it is worse than that. For them it was a life ending event, their lives snuffed out before they had even begun.’