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Full Report: Teenager imprisoned for 'despicable' Middlewich car crash deaths
A WIMBOLDSLEY teenager had been racing cars in Middlewich minutes before he killed two elderly women in a head on collision – then asked his badly injured friend to take the blame.
Michael David Gilligan, 19, of Nantwich Road, was imprisoned for six years at Chester Crown Court on Wednesday, February 19.
Barbara Lea, 79 and Christine Coates, 75, both from Sandbach, were killed when a black Vauxhall Astra driven at 54 mph by Gilligan, on the wrong side of the A533 Booths Lane, ploughed into their red Honda Jazz at 10.45pm on June 18 2013.
A passerby who stopped to help was so distressed by the scene that he himself had to be treated after going into shock.
Veteran Judge, His Honour Elgan Edwards, said: ‘This is one of the worst cases that I’ve come across’.
Prosecuting, Peter Hussey, said the car Gilligan drove belonged to friend, Chelsea Latham, whom he had convinced to let drive while she sat in the passenger seat.
After the crash, which occurred on a series of S bends, Gilligan attempted to let Ms Latham ‘carry the can’ said Judge Edwards.
Seatbelt marks on the pair were inconsistent with the story. While Ms Latham consented to an examination, Gilligan declined, becoming uncooperative enough with doctors for a staff nurse to feel the need to report the incident.
“By then, suspicion had already begun to fall on the defendant,” said Mr Hussey, who recounted eyewitness accounts of Gilligan having driven the vehicle earlier in the evening at Middlewich MacDonald’s.
“Although Ms Latham knew he was not on her insurance, he had on previous occasions driven.” said Mr Hussey.
“He began driving fast and competitively, with a series of friends in other cars.
“At one point he overtook one of the cars on a blind corner, maybe 30 minutes before the fatal collision.”
When they pulled over, Ms Latham asked for her keys back, ‘but when the cars set off again, he remained in the driver’s seat,” said Mr Hussey.
“He dropped down a gear to gain revs because he had lost ground on the other car, a Renault Clio.
“She screamed at him to slow down. She knew of the approaching S bends.
“She said: ‘you’re going to kill us all’.
Gilligan pleaded guilty to two counts of causing death by dangerous driving at his first appearance before magistrates.
Defending, Daniel Gaskell, said: “This is a young man, only 18 at the time, who has no previous convictions, who since leaving school two years ago has been in employment.
“He has assisted in the community by helping youngsters take up football.
“He’s grown up in quite difficult circumstances. He’s had a number of issues to cope with and he has coped with them well. I would ask the court to have mercy on this defendant.”
Gilligan was sentenced to six years in prison and banned from driving for seven years.
Sentencing, Judge Elgan Edwards told Gilligan: “This is a tragedy for you and your family, but it’s a far greater tragedy for the families of the two ladies who died as a result of your driving. They had lead lives of great distinction. They were out driving that night, but unfortunately for them; so were you.
“You pressured your friend to drive for whatever reason. You ignored her warnings; her pleas that you were going to kill them all because of your driving.
“You were driving on the wrong side of the road on a bendy road and you drove straight into a car being driven by the deceased.
“They didn’t stand a chance and died shortly afterwards. You were injured, but what did you do then?
“You tried to get Ms Latham to carry the can. That was despicable behaviour on your part.”