Family pays tribute to elderly couple killed in Northamptonshire car crash as distracted driver is jailed

The family of an elderly couple killed in a car crash in Northamptonshire paid tribute to the pair after the driver at fault was jailed today (Monday, January 20).

Monday, 20th January 2020, 8:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 21st January 2020, 1:54 pm

William and Brenda Skears died in an accident on the A508 in Roade while being given a lift back from Northampton General Hospital (NGH) in November 2018.

Gary Marshall admitted to being distracted by his sat-nav before going around a 'sharp bend', causing his Land Rover Discovery to hit the Skoda Fabia the Skears were travelling in.

At Northampton Crown Court, Judge Adrienne Lucking QC sentenced Marshall to six months in prison for the two counts of causing death by careless driving, to be served concurrently.

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The fatal crash was on the bend on the A508 on the northern outskirts of Roade, Northamptonshire. Photo: Google
The fatal crash was on the bend on the A508 on the northern outskirts of Roade, Northamptonshire. Photo: Google

William's brother Philip Skears and his wife Bridget told the Chronicle & Echo the couple were 'part of' Paulerspury where they lived for most of their lives and were hard-working.

"You can't explain the pain of it. For the rest of us, things keep catching my eye and I think I've seen them but they're not there," Bridget said.

"You might see a car that's like theirs or in the supermarket where we would sometimes see them.

"It gets harder the longer the time goes on. When you get that phone call that they have both gone you deal with it."

William and Brenda Skears on their wedding day in Paulerspury in March 1955. Photo courtesy of Northamptonshire Police

William, 89, and Brenda, 85, were travelling home with a volunteer transport service at about 6pm on November 16, 2018 - a month to the day from William's 90th birthday.

As they approached the bend on the A508 near the junction for Northampton Road, Marshall’s Land Rover came in the opposite direction, crossed into their lane and hit the Skoda side on.

By chance an ambulance was nearby and was on the scene within minutes. Paramedics tried to revive Mr and Mrs Skears but they died at the scene despite their best efforts.

Summarising a statement from the couple’s only son Robert Skears, prosecutor Neil Bannister said: “When he was informed of their deaths it felt like his whole world had fallen from beneath him.

“He was very close to them as their only child and lived with them his whole life. They both did a lot around the house while he did the shopping at weekends.

“The distraction of doing more chores helped in the early days after losing both his parents but he did find himself going out more as he wanted to be with people.

“The first few months were surreal as he kept expecting them to come home saying they had lost their memories and had been in a strange hospital but they were back now. But he knows it’s not true.

"He’s got a lot of adjusting to do and misses them terribly.”

The couple's driver was briefly knocked unconscious but otherwise both drivers were unhurt - Marshall also stopped at the scene and assisted police.

Marshall, a 61-year-old air conditioning business owner of Paddock Close, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, was on his way back home from a client meeting.

Just before the bend where the crash happened, Marshall told police he accepted an alert from his sat-nav to take an alternative route before there was an ‘almighty bang’.

The defendant pleaded guilty to both charges of causing death by dangerous driving at a hearing in November last year.

His defence lawyer Tim Pole said: “It is the last thing he thinks about when he goes to bed and the first thing he thinks about when he gets up.

“It was a year before he was charged and he’s going to be living with the consequences forevermore and I can say he is the sort of man that’s not going to simply be able to push this to the back of his mind.

“The reason is fundamentally he is a decent, hard-working family man and is able to think about the impact that his actions had upon others - one must never forget that and he doesn’t and is truly sorry.”

Marshall told the court his business would not be able to function if he was jailed but Judge Lucking decided he did not show enough evidence to support this.

Sentencing him, she said: “You should’ve been more aware and not allowed yourself to be distracted."

As well as the custodial sentence, he was also disqualified from driving for two years and three months, leaving his family in tears as he left the dock.