Man jailed over death of girlfriend in 91mph police chase

A smuggler has been jailed for eight years for killing his girlfriend in a high-speed police chase after trying to fly drugs and phones into a prison by drone.

Craig Kearney, 27, drove off at high speed after police responded to reports of a drone hovering over Wandsworth jail in the early hours of August 9 2016.

The one-mile chase involving two marked police cars lasted just 69 seconds.

Kearney reached average speeds of up to 91mph before crashing his car on Wandsworth Bridge Road, the Old Bailey heard.

The Peugeot had spun out of control and smashed into the front wall of a house.

His car was barely recognisable and the passenger side where 25-year-old nursery worker Acacia Smith had been sitting, without wearing a seatbelt, was "flattened", the court heard.

Describing the wreckage, one officer had said it was "totally crumpled as though it had been taken to the car pound and crushed".

As they tried to help the trapped driver, Kearney shouted "Acacia", which alerted the officers that someone else was in the car.

Ms Smith died from multiple injuries and her boyfriend, who had 15 previous convictions, including for speeding and having no insurance, was badly injured.

Police found a drone, cannabis wraps, "psychoactive" substances and small mobile phones in the car.

An examination of the flight logs revealed the device had taken off near the prison.

The court also heard Kearney had cocaine and cannabis in his system at the time of the crash.

Afterwards, he claimed one of the police cars caused the crash, but that was a "bare-faced lie", Judge Richard Marks QC said.

Kearney of Southall, Middlesex, had pleaded not guilty to a single charge of causing Ms Smith's death by dangerous driving but admitted it before trial.

The court heard it was accepted Kearney had been involved in an attempt to smuggle the contraband into Wandsworth jail, although he was not charged over it.

Prosecutor Nathan Rasiah told the court the defendant drove at "extremely high speed in an attempt to evade a police pursuit".

He said the maximum sentence was 14 years, and the defendant's dangerous driving fell into the most serious category.

Ms Smith's grandfather Lester Smith described her as a "strong, bubbly, amazing young lady" who had dreams of travelling and opening her own business.

He said: "We had a very close relationship. She was my special girl. She was my granddaughter and I loved her very much.

"Acacia was supposed to bury me but instead, because of Craig and Craig alone, the saddest day of my life, I buried her.

"Her life cut short, Acacia can never be replaced. Life will never be the same.

"Nothing will bring her back and nothing will ever make this ok."

Mitigating, Alex Jamieson said the defendant wished to apologise for what happened.

He said: "Miss Smith died at his hands. It was his fault and no-one else.

"He and Miss Smith loved each other. They had been together for eight years. They were committed to each other. Their families were enmeshed.

"He has killed the woman he loves. This is something he will have to bear for the rest of his life."

Judge Marks said his apology would have carried "more weight" if Kearney had not lied to police and had pleaded guilty straight away.

Sentencing, he said the fact Kearney had been involved in "the commission of very serious offences" and had been driving at "grossly excessive speed" were aggravating factors.

He disqualified him from driving for six years following his release from jail.

Kearney cried as he was led away from the dock and shouted "I love you" to someone in the public gallery.

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