Couple’s furious quarrel in car led to death of innocent woman
The driver had just been told by her partner the bombshell news that he had formed a new relationship with another woman, who was now pregnant.
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A couple’s furious quarrel in their hire car ended with an innocent pedestrian being killed.
The driver, Jennifer Blackwood, had just been told by her partner Anthony Critchlow the bombshell news that he had formed a new relationship with another woman, who was now pregnant.
After he ignored her demands to leave the vehicle she sped off. As she roared along Brownlow Hill in Liverpool city centre at more than double the 30 mph limit she refused his requests to pull over and let him out so he yanked hard on the handbrake with devastating consequences.
Blackwood, who had eight times the legal limit for cocaine in her system, consequently lost control of the Vauxhall Crossland at 68 mph and it spun round, mounted the pavement and struck unsuspecting 60-year-old Barbara Jones hurling her 30 feet into bushes and undergrowth.
Although the victim, a keen walker who was just out for a Sunday stroll, regained consciousness at the scene her devoted sister wept as she told a court on Friday how she died 48 hours later in hospital.
Critchlow, 35, of Ruthven Road, Old Swan, Liverpool, who admitted causing death by dangerous driving was jailed for seven years of which he will have to serve two thirds.
Critchlow, who was caught driving while banned seven months after the fatal crash, has now been disqualified from driving for nine years ten months.
Blackwood, 33, mother of his four children, of Winskill Road, West Derby, was jailed for 12 months and banned from the road for two years. She had admitted driving dangerously and while over the limit for cocaine and cannabis.
Judge David Aubrey, KC told Critchlow, “You perpetrated an obviously highly dangerous manoeuvre by putting the handbrake on when the car was travelling at high speed and it was that which caused the death of Miss Jones.
“Whilst it may be that you were seeking to prevent or reduce the dangerous driving of your co-accused you must have known that by putting the handbrake on the car would simply career out of control.”
He said the car had been travelling at 68 mph five seconds before the collision and pulling on the handbrake had caused the brakes to lock and Blackwood lost control.
He said that neither of them had been “emotionally fit or capable of driving that vehicle and almost inevitably the tragic events unfolded.“
He told Blackwood that she had deliberately ignored the rules of the road and her driving was “fuelled by anger and you drove at excess speed” and forced another car to swerve.
Sara Haque, prosecuting, told the city’s crown court that the tragedy happened just before 3pm on January 30, 2022. Blackwood was driving the Vauxhall and Critchlow, who had no licence after being disqualified in July 2016, was the front seat passenger.
They had been in a relationship for 17 years but eight weeks earlier had separated. The previous night Blackwood consumed two and a half bottles of Desperado beer and a bag of cocaine.
On the fateful day she agreed to give Critchlow a lift from his sister’s home and en route he told her he had had a relationship with another woman while they had been separated and she was pregnant.
Blackwood pulled up in a lay-by on Brownlow Hill and witnesses saw her becoming increasingly upset but he refused to get out of the vehicle. At one point he snatched the car keys but she grabbed them back and set off again heading into the city centre.
An off-duty police officer David Austin saw them arguing and the car then sped off without indicating, pulling out in front of a BMW which had to swerve but got in front.
Shortly afterwards she overtook the same car at excessive speed. Mr Austin heard “a loud screech and a bang sounding like an explosion. He also heard shouts and screams from a large number of members of the public.
“He began running to the scene and noticed the same vehicle on the left hand side of the pavement now facing in the wrong direction… he could see there was a person in the bushes.”
Mr Austin began assisting the victim who regained consciousness who wanted to get up and said she had not been hit by the car. Paramedics arrived and she was taken by air ambulance to Aintree Hospital suffering from severe chest and pelvis injuries but died 48 hours later during emergency surgery.
The BMW driver told police how he saw the rear of the car spinning to the right side and veering towards the pavement, straight towards Miss Jones as she was just alongside pedestrian crossing lights and metal rails. “The car hit her full on. There was a massive impact and she was thrown a long way as a result.”
Blackwood was hysterical at the scene and had a panic attack and was overheard shouting ‘Oh my God” and shouting to Critchlow “What have you done, what have you done?” and “Look what you’ve made me do.”
Critchlow said, “We were arguing in the car. It was stupid, she would not let me out so I pulled the handbrake.”
When interviewed by police he confirmed that he had pulled on the handbrake. “She was driving, look it is not her fault. As she was driving I pulled the handbrake up and the car swerved off the road and hit someone.” Ms Haque said that he also tested positive for cocaine.
In a poignant impact statement the victim’s heartbroken only sister Janet McParlen told how close they had been. “She was such a loving sister, a gentle, kind, caring person putting others before herself.”
She had recently turned 60 and retired as a bank clerk and had lots of plans for the future. “Her senseless and cruel death has devastated our small family, my husband Paul and son Mark… I am absolutely bereft at the loss of my sister.”
Mrs McParlen, who looked towards the defendants as she read her statement, said.. “In one moment my sister’s life was snatched away from her. It is hard to accept and I don’t think I ever will.”
She wept as she added, “We all wish she was still here.”
Jason Smith, defending, said that Critchlow, who has 25 previous convictions, “takes full responsibility for his actions that day. He does not seek to blame anyone else.
“It was a stupid and inherently dangerous act and the consequences for him and his partner and most of all for the family of Barbara Jones have been devastating.”
He said that Critchlow realised he would receive a lengthy sentence and accepted he deserved it.
Defence barrister Kate Morley said that Blackwood, who wept when the victim impact statement was read, “wished she could turn the clock back.”
“While she did not directly cause the crash she accepts her dangerous driving led to the collision.”
She had turned to drugs to blot out her distress when the couple’s relationship broke down. They have since reconciled and have a seven month old child, she said.
Miss Morley urged the judge to suspend any prison sentence because of the impact on her four children.