A man who drove the wrong way down the A14 while he was drunk and crashed head-on into another car, claiming the lives of a young couple who were planning to marry, has been jailed for eight years.
William Wilson, 33, of Brigg in South Humberside, pleaded guilty at Northampton Crown Court on Wednesday to dangerous driving, causing the deaths of Stephen Donnelly, 26, whose family lives in Kettering, and his girlfield Mandy Gold, 21.
He also admitted drink driving while he was twice the legal limit.
During a break in the court proceedings Mr Donnelly’s parents, Mark and Sue, shook hands with members of Wilson’s family and they comforted each other.
Passing sentence Judge Richard Bray said: “This is a tragic case in which the lives of two young people have been lost. No penalty can compensate for these sad deaths.”
He told Wilson: “This was a dreadful course of dangerous driving. You drove on the wrong side of the carriageway and they had no chance of avoiding instant death. There must be a lengthy sentence here.”
The judge said both bereaved families had shown exceptional courage since the accident which happened on the westbound carriageway of the A14, between junctions 1 and 2, at about 11pm on Saturday, June 27, this year.
The court heard that on the night of the accident Mr Donnelly, a student pastor, and Miss Gold, were on their way back to their homes in South Yorkshire after being at a family wedding in Kettering.
On the day of the accident Wilson, who was convicted of drink-driving in 1997 when he was 17, had been at a travellers’ fair in Cambridge.
Prosecuting, Alexandra Bull, said that before the fatal accident he had been seen by several other motorists slowing down and then accelerating, clipping kerbs and using the whole width of the road to negotiate bends. His driving was so worrying that one witness called the police to report Wilson.
She said a couple who had two young children in the back seat saw Mr Donnelly and Miss Gold’s Ford car move into the outside lane to overtake and then he heard a massive bang.
She said: “The witness saw two people trapped in the car. Wilson, who appeared dazed said: “What have I done?”
Representing Wilson, Gwyn Lewis, said: “This is a tragic case for the families whose lives were changed in an instant. They suffered a tragic loss which they have dealt with in a very dignified manner.
“No sentence, no matter what type or length, can lessen the anguish of these families.”
He said that Wilson, from a traveller family, had no recollection of anything between leaving Cambridge and the accident.
Mr Lewis said: “This will remain a jigsaw that doesn’t fit and a mystery he will never, ever understand.
“He is genuinely remorseful and has written to both bereaved families. He struggles with the consequences of his actions. It’s the first thing he thinks of in the morning and the last thing he thinks of at night. He unequivocally accepts responsibilty.”
Wilson was also disqualified from driving for 10 years.