Speedboat killer Jack Shepherd in hiding after skipping trial for Thames death

26 July 2018, 16:17

A man has been found guilty of killing his date in a speedboat accident on the Thames - but is now in hiding after skipping his trial, it has emerged.

Jack Shepherd, 30, met Charlotte Brown, 24, on dating website OkCupid and was trying to impress her by taking her out on the river in December 2015.

But the boat capsized and she was thrown into the cold water.

Shepherd, originally from Exeter, had denied manslaughter by gross negligence but was found guilty in his absence at the Old Bailey.

It can now be reported that he skipped bail and failed to attend his trial.

Despite issuing instructions to his legal team by phone, police were unable to track Shepherd down and his whereabouts remain unknown.

The court was told how Shepherd, a web designer, bought the 14ft Fletcher Arrowflyte GTO from Gumtree to "pull women".

In the months before Ms Brown's death he had entertained up to 10 women on the boat, having first invited them back to his houseboat in Hammersmith, west London.

During that time, he had been caught speeding by marine police more than once and advised on the importance of wearing life jackets.

Previous date Amy Warner told jurors she felt so uncomfortable on the vessel that she asked Shepherd to slow down and then got a taxi home.

During his date with Ms Brown, Shepherd took her for a £150 meal at Oblix in the Shard, where they drank two bottles of wine.

The couple then took champagne on to the speedboat for a trip past the Houses of Parliament.

In mobile phone footage, Ms Brown could be heard shouting that they were going "so fast" as Shepherd drove at more than double the 12-knot speed limit.

On the return journey, Shepherd handed over the controls to Ms Brown - who followed suit and went "full throttle".

The speeding boat hit a submerged log and tipped over near Wandsworth Bridge, throwing them both into the water.

Riverside resident Steven Morrissey told the court that he heard a young man screaming for help.

Shepherd was found clinging to the hull and Ms Brown was pulled from the water unconscious and unresponsive. Paramedics tried to save her but she was already in cardiac arrest and suffering from hypothermia.

The next day, Shepherd tearfully told police that he had taken Ms Brown out on the river as part of his seduction routine.

He said: "I was just trying to show off about having a speedboat, like I thought it would impress her."

Shepherd told police Ms Brown was going "full throttle" when they crashed.

He said: "My memory is quite hazy about the whole thing because we drank heavily.

"I had no idea what happened. I was hanging on and tried to go underneath the boat to see if she was there and got trapped."

Prosecutor Aftab Jafferjee QC told jurors: "It was cold, it was dark, we submit, it was sheer madness."

Life jackets had been tucked away, the kill cord was not connected and the boat had a number of defects, including faulty steering, the court heard.

Jurors were told the defendant denied manslaughter on the basis he had no "duty of care" towards Ms Brown.

It can now be reported that Shepherd told his lawyers in mid-May that he would not attend his trial but the Crown Prosecution Service and court only found out a week before.

In legal argument, the prosecution said police had spoken to his mother on 27 June and were told he had not been in contact since March, and that his phone number was no longer connected.

Shepherd's defence team said they did not know his whereabouts even though his solicitor had maintained telephone contact.

It later emerged he had been receiving daily updates from the trial from his legal team.

But they successfully argued that the reason for his absence should be kept from jurors.

Mr Jafferjee said the lawyers had been "dancing on pins" as they debated exactly what to tell the jury, as the defence objected to the words "failed to attend".

Shepherd is also wanted by police for failing to attend court over another unrelated matter.