Driver who killed 26-year-old in head-on crash in Northamptonshire was trying to end his own life, judge rules

A driver who killed a 26-year-old man in Northamptonshire was trying to end his life when he crashed his car into oncoming traffic, a judge has ruled today.

Friday, 6th September 2019, 6:22 pm
Matthew Elson was killed on the A45 between Flore and Nether Heyford in 2017.

Daniel Szlek, 29, from London, pleaded guilty in April this year to causing death by dangerous driving on the A45 between Flore and Nether Heyford.

He crashed his BMW into a white Ford Focus driven by Matthew Elson, from Staffordshire, at around 7.15am on the morning of October 26, 2017.

Sadly, Mr Elson died at the scene. He was 26.

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Matthew Elson was killed on the A45 between Flore and Nether Heyford in 2017.

But at Northampton Crown Court yesterday (September 4), a judge ruled that the crash was not the result of poor driving or a badly-judged manoeuvre - but rather, that Szlek intentionally accelerated his car into oncoming traffic in a bid to end his life.

Her Honour Judge Adrienne Lucking ruled: "I am sure the defendant made a deliberate decision to pull into the path of the incoming lead vehicle [driven by Mr Elson] in an attempt to kill himself.

"The witnesses between them described how the BMW accelerated hard towards the oncoming vehicles. This is entirely inconsistent with simply poorly judged overtaking.

"[Mr Elson's car] was only three or four car lengths away... A head-on collision was virtually certain."

The hearing in court yesterday was held after Szlek denied he was attempting to end his life during the crash in 2017.

Expert psychiatrists gave evidence as part of the hearing, who agreed that Szlek was suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts in the period leading up the incident.

Evidence also showed how Szlek sent a text expressing suicidal intent in the early hours of the morning the day before the crash.

Szlek himself took the stand to give evidence, where he claimed he had very little memory of the crash.

Judge Lucking said: "In all probability [Szlek] has no genuine memory of the collision or the events immediately surrounding it.

"I did not find him to be a helpful witness. I found him to be evasive and unconvincing."

Following the ruling, Szlek was remanded into custody and will be sentenced later this year.

The judge told the 29-year-old before he was taken down to the cells: "On the next occasion this court sees you, it will be to sentence an offence that falls into the top level of offending for dangerous driving."