Man cleared of causing death crash

A TEENAGER accused of causing the deaths of three friends - including a Suffolk man - in a road crash in Shropshire has been cleared after a judge ruled there was not enough evidence to say he was driving one of the cars.

A TEENAGER accused of causing the deaths of three friends - including a Suffolk man - in a road crash in Shropshire has been cleared after a judge ruled there was not enough evidence to say he was driving one of the cars.

Nicholas Evans, 19, was cleared of causing the deaths of fellow Harper Adams college students Natalie Dustan, David Holtom and Christopher Machattie by dangerous driving.

Mr Machattie, who was a first year HND students in agriculture business, management and marketing at the college, came from Walpole, near Halesworth.

Judge Robin Onions said yesterday there was not enough evidence for the jury to convict Evans, and said he would be "failing" in his duty if he allowed the trial to continue.


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The court had heard previously that paramedics and firefighters testified the driver was probably one of the students killed in the crash.

The jury returned a not-guilty verdict on all charges on the directions of Judge Onions and Evans, of Newport, south Wales, walked free from the dock.

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At Shrewsbury Crown Court Judge Onions outlined to the jury the details of his ruling which followed legal submissions by defence counsel Mr Paul Thomas.

He said: "A jury could not possibly convict on the evidence presented to it. I would be failing in my duty as a judge if I allowed the case to get that far.”

He said the only piece of direct prosecution evidence was the statement of witness Daniel Hodgkinson who testified Evans had been driving on the night of the crash.

"I do not in any way wish to be critical of a man who I genuinely believe gave the best and most honest answers he could. Like all the young people involved in this terrible crash he has been through a horrific experience.

"But this cannot stand in the way of a proper assessment of him as a witness. He had a head injury and for some time could not remember the circumstances of the accident."

Judge Onions said that evidence from five members of the rescue services made it "a practical impossibility" that the defendant was the driver.

They had testified that they had seen a man in the driver's seat hanging by his seatbelt and their evidence suggests that the person suspended from the seatbelt was the driver.

Judge Onions said that one of the firefighters told the court that the belt was around him and it was a person who was later pronounced dead.

Another firefighter had said that the driver of the Peugeot had died in the accident and that the belt was supporting the man in the driver's seat. The firefighter said that "he was the last person removed from the car because he was dead".

During the nine day trial Evans denied causing the deaths of his friends by driving dangerously and charges of careless driving and driving while over the legal limit.

The accident happened on February 12 last year on the B5062 at Edgmond near Harper Adams University College when a Ford Fiesta and a Peugeot 306 were in collision.

The prosecution had claimed Evans had been driving the Peugeot.

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