Motorist who killed two people in eight-car pile-up jailed for nine years

11 August 2021, 18:16

The aftermath of the crash in Romford
The aftermath of the crash in Romford. Picture: Alamy

By Patrick Grafton-Green

A motorist who caused the deaths of two people in an eight-car pile-up has been jailed for nine years.

Paul Ballard, 39, previously admitted causing the deaths of Eileen Haskell, 64, and schoolteacher Richard Trezise, 48, by dangerous driving.

They were pronounced dead following the collision on Squirrels Heath Road, Romford, Essex, at around 2pm on February 20, 2020.

Ms Haskell was in her car, stationary at traffic lights, when the vehicle was hit at speed from behind.

Mr Tresize was waiting at a bus stop when he was struck by a car.

The Old Bailey heard on Wednesday that Ballard suffered a seizure while driving within the 30mph limit, causing him to accelerate to up to 104mph in the seconds before the crash.

READ MORE: Tributes paid to 'beautiful angels' killed in suspected drink-driving crash on M1

He had also taken a "significant amount" of cocaine and was driving with his own son, who was then 12, in the passenger seat of his Volkswagen Golf.

The court heard there was "no evidence" to suggest that the Class A drug had caused the crash or the seizure, but Ballard had not notified his GP or the DVLA about his fits.

London Fire Brigade had to cut a number of people free from their cars and six patients were taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Judge Richard Marks QC said the accident could have been much worse.

"The fact that other individuals were not killed or seriously injured is entirely fortuitous," he said.

Ballard's medical records showed he had had three seizures prior to the collision - two in 2016 and one in 2019 - and had admitted being addicted to cocaine.

Prosecutor Edward Franklin said Ballard "flagrantly ignored the risk" of driving when he had had seizures without warning before, with one previous incident resulting in him falling down a flight of stairs and waking in a pool of his own blood.

Mr Franklin summarised victim impact statements from bereaved relatives.

Sharon Trezise witnessed her husband Richard's death in the collision along with their son, Robert.

Her statement said he had worked as a schoolteacher for more than two decades, most recently at a primary school in Thurrock where pupils called him "Mr T".

Following his death, Ms Trezise resigned from her own job teaching vulnerable children as an assistant headteacher, which she loved, after struggling to cope without him.

"Richard was not just my husband, but my best friend, my rock... losing him the way I did is something I will never recover from," she said.

"When she closed her eyes all she could see was what happened, rather than her husband's smiling face," Mr Franklin added.

In a statement read to the court, her son said: "This has impacted me a lot... realising that my dad has actually gone and it isn't some nightmare I had. I couldn't stop picturing the accident in my head.

"All we have got now is memories of him and photographs."

Tributes to Eileen Haskell were read out in court
Tributes to Eileen Haskell were read out in court. Picture: Metropolitan Police

Sienna Haskell, who lost her father Edward to cancer "barely a year" after her mother Eileen's death in the crash, said in a statement: "My mum was ripped from us a year ago, and before I could even start to process my grief I had to watch my father die too.

"What I would give to see my mother again and have her hug me and tell me everything is going to be OK.

"The worst part is knowing that this could all have been avoided."

Addressing Ballard, she added: "The pain you have caused goes beyond words. Your actions have ripped my life apart."

Eileen's other daughter, Holly, described her as "inspirational", "caring" and "funny" in her statement.

"My mum was my closest friend and honestly I'm lost without her," she said.

Ballard, from Theydon Bois, in Essex, denied two further charges of causing death by driving while uninsured.

Speaking about the victims' bereaved relatives, Judge Marks said: "Each of them is utterly devastated by the loss that they have sustained.

"It goes without saying that no sentence that I impose upon you will seem adequate to any of them or will seem capable of compensating them for their absolutely devastating loss."

Judge Marks said Ballard's prison sentence will be followed by an 11-and-a-half year disqualification from driving.