Woman jailed for accidentally driving car into worshippers

A woman has been jailed for 16 months for accidentally driving her car into worshippers leaving an Eid celebration while she felt tired from fasting for Ramadan.

Marian Kabah's disabled husband shouted "Who will look after me?" and well-wishers wept as she was taken down from the dock at Newcastle Crown Court.

The 42-year-old defendant had sparked fears of a terror attack when she ran down seven people, badly injuring two, in her Nissan Juke at Westgate Community College, Newcastle.

It was days after a car was driven into people outside Finsbury Park Mosque in London.

The judge was told how 4-5,000 people had gathered on a playing field for celebrations on the morning of Sunday June 25.

It was quickly established that she was a worshipper who ran into the pedestrians and panicked as she manoeuvred her automatic car off an exit route and onto grass where people were walking.

She was jailed at Newcastle Crown Court after admitting two counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

That was despite mitigation that she was the carer for her husband who had suffered a "catastrophic stroke" in 2009.

Kabah had accelerated to get the car over a kerb onto the grass, but in so doing, she sped up and ploughed into the path of families leaving the venue.

Her speed reached up to 20mph and was finally stopped when someone got into the car and switched the engine off.

PhD student Abdullah Sio, a British citizen originally from Syria, pushed his son out of the path of the car and went under its wheels, suffering multiple fractures. He attended court in a wheelchair.

Syeda and Abdul Rajib, whose son Zaryab was injured (Tom Wilkinson/PA)
Syeda and Abdul Rajib, whose son Zaryab was injured (Tom Wilkinson/PA)

And seven-year-old Zaryab was left bloodied and with brain injuries after he was knocked down. He has been left with ongoing problems with his hearing, vision and sleep.

Mark Giuliani, prosecuting, described the crash, saying: "She knew she had to brake.

"She said she thought she was but must have been accelerating.

"She said she felt tired in the morning of June 25."

Judge Edward Bindloss, sentencing, said: "It may be the combination of fasting and altered sleep patterns may have had something to do with the reactions that occurred after you mounted the kerb."

Kabah had little recollection of events afterwards but was heard to say at the scene: "I am not feeling well, I don't know what's happening, I didn't mean to do it."

She has since apologised at a gathering at her mosque and she was genuinely remorseful, the court heard.

Kabah came to this country in 2008 having spent nine years in a refugee camp after fleeing war in Liberia.

Andrew Nuttall, defending, said she was named Wife of the Year in 2014 by the Liberian community for the way she cared for her husband.

Mr Nuttall said: "How cruel is life that she should now be the author of further tragedy?

"She is the last person who would ever wish to cause distress to anybody, and yet here she is."

The judge said such cases, where the harm caused was high but the culpability low, were the hardest to sentence.

He said the case was so serious that a jail sentence was required, taking into consideration her decision to drive while knowing she was deprived of sleep and that she chose to drive onto the grass near so many vulnerable people.

Her husband, who walked with the aid of a stick, collapsed to the floor and was helped to his feet by supporters who carried him from court.

Kabah, of Meadow Lane, Gateshead, was banned from driving for two years.

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