Suicidal driver jailed after killing 'much-loved' man on Northamptonshire road by driving into oncoming traffic

Matthew Elson was described as a "much loved" young man with a "thirst for life".
Matthew Elson was described as a "much loved" young man with a "thirst for life".

A 29-year-old driver has been jailed for killing a "much-loved" man in Northamptonshire when he intentionally crashed his car into oncoming traffic in a bid to end his own life.

Michael Szlek, 29, had not slept for nearly 24 hours and intended to kill himself when he pulled out of the single carriageway on the A45 between Flore and Upper Heyford at 7.15am on October 26, 2017.

Tragically, the first car he collided with was a Ford Focus driven by Matthew Elson, 26, who was just five minutes away from arriving at his office for work that morning.

Witnesses described how the engine of Szlek's BMW "screamed" as he accelerated into the approaching cars in a deliberate attempt to cause a serious collision.

In a series of victim impact statements, Northampton Crown Court heard yesterday (October 11) how Matthew's death two years ago has "shattered" the lives of his heartbroken family and partner.

In a statement read out in court, his mum Jane Elson said: "I always used to worry about his driving to work. But he always used to say 'mum, it won't be me; and if my number is up, my number is up.'

"Our family's lives have been totally shattered. I find it hard to believe he is no longer with us. Even now, two years after his death, I stil expect him to walk through the front gate.

"He had already achieved so much in his short life. We were so very proud of him."

Matthew, a keen cricketer who owned a home with his partner Amy in Staffordshire, was a first-class student in engineering who worked for Balfour Beatty as part of ongoing work on the A45.

The court heard he was on track to become a director and the company has pledged to name a bridge on the West Coast Main Line after him.

In a statement, his partner Amy said: "What made me proud to be Matthew's partner was the person he was. He was cheeky, sociable, thoughtful and fiercely loyal to both me and his friends.

"The time I spent with Matthew in our home will be the most cherished 15 months of my life.

"Matt, your short life enriched the lives of so many people and you will be loved forever."

Although he pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving, earlier this year in court Szlek tried to convince Her Honour Judge Adrienne Lucking that he was suffering from a dissociative episode at the time of the crash.

But Judge Lucking rejected this claim after hearing psychiatric evidence.

"You were well aware of what you were doing," the judge told Szlek in sentencing.

"You pulled out into oncoming traffic with the intent of causing a serious collision with the intent of killing yourself.

"And there was a collision. And you hit Matthew Elson's car, pushing his car backwards and killing him instantly.

"It's clear that Matthew was a much-loved young man. His life and the loss of it has left a devastating hole in the lives of his family and the heart of his girlfriend. Their loss can never be mended by any sentence I can impose."

Szlek was jailed for eight years and one month, and will be disqualified from driving for five years upon his release.