A drunk Audi driver drove “like a bullet” up the M1 and smashed into a slow-moving Range Rover, killing a woman in the back seat.
Former tank gunner Shaun Smith, from Sutton-in-Ashfield, had been to a Coalville pub with a friend, where he had up to eight pints, and he later told police he had little recollection of getting into the car or any of the events leading up to the horrific smash.
The Range Rover contained three female friends travelling home to the Bradford area after a weekend trip to London.
A dashboard warning light had come on and the driver, Ayeesha Quereshi, had slowed down to about 48mph.
Smith’s Audi RS4 swerved from the fastest lane, right across the motorway and smashed into the back of it at it travelled in lane one, wrecking the back end of the Range Rover and fatally injuring 30-year-old Saarah Moghul.
Saarah was taken to hospital but had been left brain-dead by the 98mph impact.
Ms Quereshi’s wrist was smashed in the collision. The third friend, Annum Khan, was asleep in the passenger seat when the collision happened and suffered serious internal injuries that left her still unable to stand two months later.
Witness Kevin Welsh, who was also driving north on the M1 estimated Smith drove past at about 150mph and later told police that the black Audi “shot past me like a bullet going between the middle and the fast lane”.
He added: “I remember thinking, ‘Jesus they must be going at around 150mph’.”
He said he was feeling angry that anyone should be travelling so fast when, about 45 seconds later, he smelled smoke and saw the Audi stopped in the carriageway with flames pouring out of it. The Range Rover was nearby.
Smith, who got out of the burning Audi with only minor injuries, admitted to people stopping to help that it was his fault and that he had drank seven or eight pints before setting off.
Ms Quereshi told police that after the crash, Smith was not helping and was just standing in the motorway staring at her, which she said was “haunting”.
One motorist who happened upon the scene told Smith he was a “p***k” and he replied: “I know, I know, I know.”
He told another motorist he had been travelling “stupidly fast” and when he was taken to an ambulance he told the paramedics: “I don’t deserve to go to hospital, it’s all my fault.”
At the police station, after he’d been treated, he had to ask the officers which direction he had been travelling on the motorway.
When he was told he was going north he said he was probably driving home.
Based on the extensive damage caused to both cars, collision investigators concluded the Audi must have been going at at least 98mph at the time of the impact, which happened just before 11.20pm at junction 23 of the northbound carriageway near East Midlands Airport.
At Leicester Crown Court on Friday, Smith, 38, of Westbourne Road, Sutton in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, was jailed for five years and banned from driving for eight years after admitting one charge of causing death by dangerous driving and one charge of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
During the hearing Ms Quereshi read her victim impact statement out in court. She sobbed as she addressed Smith in the dock and told him how devastated she felt losing “the loveliest person on this world” who she had been friends with for 18 years.
She also described reliving the accident in her mind every day in the year since the crash on September 26 last year and being unable to pick up her two-year-old son because of her wrist injury.
Mrs Khan also read a statement about the impact of the accident, including the loss of Saarah and the anxiety and physical pain she suffered.
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The court heard that on three previous occasions, Smith had been convicted for drink-driving and banned. He was banned a fourth time in 2010 for failing to provide a specimen after being suspected of the same offence.
His barrister, Kevin Waddingham, told the court Smith had seen action in Iraq in 2003 as a gunner in a tank, leaving him with PTSD. His marriage had been in difficulty.
Mr Waddingham said: “All he can do is accept responsibility and that is something he has done.
“He will never be free from the weight of his guilt.”
Judge Keith Raynor told Smith he had been “driving like a maniac” and appeared to have either lost control or passed out.
He said: “You could not even remember whether you were going north or south.
“You were in a relatively high-powered car and put your foot down on the accelerator having drunk to excess.”
Family members of both the victims and the defendant cried as the judge summed up the victim impact statements.
He highlighted the number of ex-servicemen who left Afghanistan and Iraq traumatised and ended up in prison.
He said: “You will join the growing number of service personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan who have PTSD and you will be with them in the prison population.”