Drink and drug driver jailed for causing deaths of two children in Wales



A drink and cocaine-fueled van driver who killed a three and four-year-old brother and sister in a motorway crash has been jailed for nine years.

Martin Newman, 41, was behind the wheel of his Ford Transit van when he slammed into a family’s Ford Fiesta on the M4 in Wales on 5 February.

He admitted causing the deaths by dangerous driving of Jayden Lee Lucas, three, and his four-year-old sister Gracie Ann Wheaton, who were returning from a birthday party at the time of the crash.

Newman, who was twice over the drink-driving limit and had traces of cocaine in his system, also admitted injuring their mother, Rhiannon Lucas.

On Friday, Newman was jailed for nine years and four months and was disqualified from driving for 14 years and eight months.

Following the sentencing, the children’s family said their lives had been destroyed and that their home now “feels like an empty shell.”

Outside the court, Jayden and Gracie Ann’s family said they would appeal for a harsher punishment that reflected the loss of two young siblings.

Martin Newman has been jailed for more than nine years

(PA)

Judge Daniel Williams said some may deem the sentence “inadequate”, adding that only parliament could change the law.

The family were on their way back from a birthday party at Techniquest in Cardiff. Gracie Ann complained of having a bad stomach and needing the toilet and they pulled onto the hard shoulder when they were suddenly hit by Newman’s vehicle.

CCTV from Traffic Wales cameras played in Cardiff Crown Court showed the van swerving across the lanes on the M4, from the Prince of Wales bridge, to the point where he crashed into the family’s car, traveling at 57mph.

The siblings were then rushed to the intensive care unit of the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.

Gracie Ann suffered a cardiac arrest due to the severity of her injuries and died the following day, while Jayden died on 11 February.

Newman had been taking cocaine and had drunk vodka and 10 cans of cider until 5am on the day of the incident, the court heard.

He told police officers he had been working in Leicester that week, and had only got two hours sleep the previous night.

In the morning, Newman decided he was too hungover and tired to work and instead chose to make the journey back to Bridgend.

Newman claimed he could not remember how he had ended up driving on the hard shoulder, but told police he thought he must have fallen asleep at the wheel.

Newman was found crying at the scene with blood on his hands and saying he “wished he was dead.”

According to investigators, the killer was driving at 70mph before braking just two seconds before the impact on the M4 between Cardiff and Newport. He was also seen driving haphazardly at speed by other drivers on the motorway.

Cara Williams and her partner said they overtook Newman, who they said was driving like an “idiot”, adding when they passed him they saw he was holding his phone to his right ear.

The pair then mouthed at him to “get off the phone”, but he seemed “oblivious”.

Newman’s phone has since been examined and it was determined that his last phone call ended seven minutes before the crash, during which he had been having an argument with his ex-partner.

Prosecutor Roger Griffiths added: “The force of the impact had forced the rear seats into the back of the front seats inside the car.”

The judge said: “This was the most serious level of dangerous driving…I am satisfied, the most flagrant disregard of the rules of the road.”

In her victim impact statement read out in court, the children’s mother, Rhiannon Lucas, from Tredegar, Blaenau Gwent, said she could not understand why people drink or drug drive.

A photo of 3-year-old Jayden-Lee Lucas and 4-year-old Gracie-Ann Wheaton

(PA)

“If he wasn’t on the road that day me and Adam wouldn’t be going through all this,” she said.

She said she was “suffering with flash backs and nightmares of the accident” and could not sleep without Jayden’s pillow next to her, which she added still smelled of him.

Ms Lucas said he “had a wicked personality” and a great group of friends, and Gracie-Ann “enjoyed her own company and was as quiet as a mouse”. She believes the pair would always be together.

“My dad misses his grandchildren massively – he cries most nights before going to bed,” she said.

She said Gracie-Ann was his “little angel” and Jayden-Lee was his only grandson. “If that man was not on the road that day my children would still be here”, she added.

Ms Lucas, who remains on strong pain relief medication for her injuries, said: “People have said to me I can just have another child. Nothing will ever replace my babies, the driver of that vehicle took my children away. They were such happy children.”

Mr Saunders said: “They have left us without a purpose in life. We’re trying to function but we know it can never be the same.”

“I will miss seeing them laughing and joking in the morning and especially playing football games on the PS4 with Jayden-lee.

“He used to do a little celebration ritual where he waved his finger in the air when a goal was scored and now, whenever I am watching football and a goal is scored it makes me sad and upset as he will never do that again.

“Wherever you go in the house you are reminded of the children, there are pictures on the walls and their toys are still about, just as they left them.”

Mr Saunders said: “What was a day of fun and enjoyment, turned into a day of horror and pain.”

In a statement read after sentencing the children’s family said: “Martin Newman devastated our family by taking our two beautiful children, Gracie Ann and Jayden Lee.

“Our family home now feels like an empty shell without them and the love and happiness they brought us cannot ever be replaced. Our lives have been destroyed.


www.independent.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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