Two men have been jailed for a “senseless” high-speed pursuit which caused the death of a mother-of-five travelling in the opposite direction.
Joseph Pownall, 27, chased Lewis Fisher, 21, in a VW Amarok pick-up truck at more than 70mph in a 30mph zone in Wigan, Greater Manchester, before both lost control on a left-hand bend and Fisher’s Mercedes C220 saloon ploughed into the front offside of a VW Polo driven by 34-year-old Joanne Collinge.
Devastating damage was caused to Mrs Collinge’s vehicle, which was sent spinning 180 degrees and she died in hospital shortly after the collision on the late afternoon of April 20, Manchester Crown Court heard.
The pursuit was sparked after one of Fisher’s passengers threw a brick at the Amarok parked outside the Bryn Hall pub in Ashton-in-Makerfield.
Pownall came out of the pub intent on revenge and caught up with the Mercedes at traffic lights in Lily Lane before he pursued it for more than a mile along Bickershaw Lane at less than a car’s length behind.
A witness to the pursuit told the court she saw Fisher looking in his rear-view mirror at Pownall’s vehicle and laughing as though he was relishing the chase, which Fisher denied.
The Mercedes was rammed at least once, the court was told, as other motorists coming the other way were forced to take evasive action – but unfortunately Mrs Collinge had no time to steer clear.
Andrew O’Byrne QC, prosecuting, said Pownall failed to stop at the scene and returned to the Bryn Hall where CCTV appeared to show him “boasting” about the pursuit and “almost revelling” in the circumstances.
The defendant then rang his stepbrother, Steven Fairclough, 42, and persuaded him to make a false report that the Amarok had just been stolen.
Pownall apologised to a family member of Mrs Collinge, from Leigh, when he later realised she had died and handed himself in to police.
Mrs Collinge’s husband, Andrew, suffered fractures to his sternum, rib and forearm from the collision, while two of Mrs Collinge’s five daughters were also injured.
The court was told Mr Collinge remembered hearing a loud bang and then drifting in and out of consciousness.
He recalled turning to his wife who he said had obviously suffered severe injuries and he knew “she was going to die and I could do nothing”.
Mr O’Byrne told Judge Richard Mansell QC that a message from Pownall’s Facebook account had been posted while in custody which read: “You can lock the lock but you can’t stop the clock.”
Pownall denied he wrote the post which the judge said he was prepared to accept but added it was “insensitive to say the least”.
Nigel Edwards QC, defending, said his client also denied boasting of his driving in the pub and was genuinely remorseful for the “moment of madness”, while the court heard father-of-one Fisher, who has never had a driving licence, was also apologetic.
Pownall, of Pennine Way, Golborne, pleaded guilty last month to causing death and serious injury by dangerous driving and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Jailing him for a total of 12 years, Judge Mansell told him: “By your senseless act of aggression you have brought unimaginable tragedy to bear on this family.”
Sentencing Fisher, of Poolstock Lane, to 11 years in custody after he was convicted by a jury this week of causing death and serious injury by dangerous driving while unlicensed and uninsured, the judge said he too had acted senselessly by “firstly provoking Pownall into an aggressive response and then engaging with him in this high-speed and highly dangerous pursuit”.
The judge accepted Fairclough, of Elm Avenue, Golborne, was not aware at the time the collision was fatal and had acted out of a “misguided sense of loyalty”.
Fairclough admitted conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and received a 12-month custodial sentence suspended for 12 months and was told to perform 150 hours of unpaid work in the community.
Following sentencing, Mr Collinge said: “We all miss Joanne so much and it has been very difficult reliving the incident and everything that happened.
“She was the love of my life and such a great mum. We just can’t imagine our lives without her.
“The people responsible for Joanne’s death have left us with our own life sentence.”