Mum’s heartbreaking words as she watched driver who killed her children sentenced

One heartbroken mum, whose two children were killed when a van driver crashed into their car, has said she wants them to be remembered as “happy and loving.”

Rhiannon Lucas spoke outside court after watching Martin Newman being sentenced to nine years and four months in prison for the deaths of her children Gracie-Ann Lucas, four, and three-year-old brother Jayden-Lee Lucas, writes Wales Online.

The court was told that 41-year-old painter and decorator Newman had been drinking and taking drugs when his Ford Transit crashed into the car that was carrying the siblings, along with their mother and stepfather Adam Saunders.

Newman was sentenced just two days before Gracie-Ann should have been celebrating her fifth birthday. And instead her devastated family of her are going back home to an “empty shell”.

Three-year-old Jayden-Lee Lucas and 4-year-old Gracie-Ann Wheaton were killed

The children’s father, Joseph Wheaton, and stepfather, Adam Saunders, wore T-shirts with pictures of Gracie-Ann and Jayden-Lee printed on the front while a statement on behalf of the family was read out.

It said: “On Saturday, February 5, 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.

“He chose to drive his vehicle under the influence of drink and drugs and these actions displayed a total disregard for anyone’s safety and we have paid the ultimate price for his unlawful and unsociable acts.

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“We hope today’s sentence will act as a deterrent to anyone who may consider driving in a dangerous manner especially while being intoxicated through drink and drugs and distracted by a mobile telephone.

“No prison sentence that a court can impose will ever be enough and will never bring Gracie-Ann and Jayden-Lee back.

“Finally a heartfelt thanks to the community of Tredegar and wider Wales for the help and support we have received from day one of this tragic incident.

“A day hasn’t gone by when we haven’t been offered much love and help which has truly meant the world to us. Thank you.”

Grandfather Jason Lucas said: “I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to go through what we have gone through and we feel that we have been let down by the Government. It shouldn’t have happened to anybody and in four and half years and he will be out.

“He killed two innocent little babies and when he gets out he will be able to see his children. My daughter will never get to see hers again.”

Jayden-Lee and Gracie-Ann Lucas
Jayden-Lee and Gracie-Ann Lucas had stopped on the hard shoulder when the crash happened

During the hearing the sentencing judge, Daniel Williams, described the sentencing power of the court in the case as “inadequate” but said his sentencing powers were restricted by guidelines set by Parliament.

Addressing Newman said: “This is the most serious level of dangerous driving. It involved a flagrant disregard for the rules of the road and utter disregard to danger being caused to others by your driving.

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“The aggravating features are you have previous convictions for motoring offenses including drink-driving and using a mobile phone whilst driving and secondly the grave aggravating feature is you caused two children’s deaths and the serious injury of their mother who is left bereft.

“There’s no real mitigation in this case. Any remorse you feel rather than self-pity does not affect the sentence this court must pass. You have a limited understanding of wider consequences to others affected by the collision.”

He added: “The maximum sentence is 14 years imprisonment.

“Many think such a sentence is inadequate to reflect what you have done and there will be many who will call for that maximum sentence to be re-examined. That is not a matter for any court but Parliament.

“You pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and a reduction cannot be withheld because of an inadequate maximum sentence.”

Newman had been sipping wine behind the wheel

The crash happened on the M4 westbound carriageway between junctions 28 and 29 in Newport. Gracie-Ann died the day after the crash while Jayden-Lee five days later.

The siblings, from Tredegar, were being driven home from a birthday party when the car they were traveling in was struck by a Transit driven by Newman of South Avenue in Croeserw, Cymmer, Neath Port Talbot.

An inquest opening heard the children were in a car which was stationary on the hard shoulder.

The 41-year-old defendant admitted two counts of causing death by dangerous driving. He has also pleaded guilty to causing serious injury to the children’s mother Rhiannon Lucas by dangerous driving.

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When he appeared at Cardiff Crown Court on Friday after previously being remanded in custody Newman, who sobbed in the dock, also admitted charges of drink-driving and drug-driving.

Newman was sentenced to nine years and four months imprisonment. He was also disqualified from driving for 10 years with an extension of four years and eight months while he is in custody.

He will be required to pass an extended driving test before being able to regain a license.

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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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