Teenager unlawfully killed - inquest

AN “incompetent and inexperienced” 15-year-old driver drank wine and cider before crashing her father's luxury car, killing her friend, an inquest has heard.

AN “incompetent and inexperienced” 15-year-old driver drank wine and cider before crashing her father's luxury car, killing her friend, an inquest has heard.

Camilla Hamilton, also 15, died when the four-wheel drive Mercedes ML 320 she was in lost control and went into a ditch before smashing into a tree.

Criminal proceedings against the driver, now 17, had been halted earlier this year after a court ruled her mental condition would have prevented her from having a fair trial.

But yesterday the Essex Coroner, Caroline Beasley-Murray, ruled Camilla had been unlawfully killed in the accident, in Pebmarsh, near Halstead, on June 28, 2003.

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There is, however, no prospect of any further criminal proceedings in the case, although the driver was not named in yesterday's proceedings at Essex Coroner's Court, Chelmsford.

Following the inquest Camilla's parents, David and Janice, who live in Littley Green, near Chelmsford, said they would always have unanswered questions about exactly what happened in the car because the driver had not answered them.

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During the inquest it emerged the driver, who was not wearing a seatbelt, had been tested for alcohol and found to be over the legal limit - however no readings were read out.

Camilla, who was in the front passenger seat and was wearing a seat belt, suffered multiple injuries and died at the scene.

Witnesses described seeing the 4x4 being driven erratically in the period leading up to the crash on Twinstead Road.

Raymond Faux was forced to brake hard when the Mercedes shot out in front of his Citroen Xsara, coming onto his side of the road before driving off.

Stephen Puddephat, a Metropolitan policeman, was in his car with his wife when they came up behind the stationary Mercedes in Pebmarsh.

In his statement he said the car moved off “very jerkily” and then turned into a farm's drive without indicating and shortly afterwards he also saw it accelerating away harshly.

Pebmarsh resident Guy Swan saw the car go past his bathroom window after 9pm, also reporting it was accelerating harshly and aggressively before he heard a “muffled thud” which he later realised was the car hitting a tree at about 9.45pm.

Pc Charles Harris, who investigated the causes of the accident, said the Mercedes had gone about 40 metres off road before it hit a tree.

He said there was no evidence of braking from the powerful vehicle which was probably travelling at about 50mph at the point of impact.

Tests later showed the car was in normal working order and had been fully roadworthy.

Mrs Hamilton was in tears as she listened to Pc Harris describe how the car came off the quiet country road.

He said the alcohol consumed by the driver, who was wearing a swimming costume, “must have been impaired her ability further”.

Caroline Beasley-Murray, the Essex Coroner, recorded a verdict that Camilla had been unlawfully killed.

In reaching her verdict she said she had to consider what constituted death by dangerous driving under the Road Traffic Act, and was satisfied the incident had.

She said: “I have had regard to the fact that the driver was an incompetent and inexperienced driver and born in mind her age and powerful form of vehicle she was driving.”

She added: “Camilla was clearly a beautiful, talented, young girl with probably a splendid future ahead of her.”

Mr Hamilton, stood beside his wife, read from a statement outside Essex Coroner's Court, said: “Our lives have been devastated by what happened to our daughter, Camilla, on that terrible night two-and-a-half years ago.

“During that period we have been through hell but the coroner's verdict and inquest has given us some answers to how Camilla died.

“However, we will have to live the rest of our lives truly not knowing what went on and what happened in that vehicle and prior to getting in that vehicle.

“The one person who knows what happened, the driver, has not answered any questions about what happened on that night.”

The driver of the car, who was not in the inquest, had originally faced a charge of death by dangerous driving before a judge ordered proceedings to be halted at Chelmsford Crown Court earlier this year.


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