A drink-driver who mowed down and killed a mother-of-one as she walked her dog along a pavement has been jailed for nine and a half years.
Darren Ferris, 24, who had been drinking Buckfast, lost control of his Ford Mondeo and ploughed into 44-year-old Linda Carson just after 8pm on September 27 last year in Motherwell, North Lanarkshire.
The High Court in Glasgow heard Ferris was unable to control the car on a right-hand bend, left the road, mounted the pavement and struck Mrs Carson, who was walking her pet terrier Buster in the town’s Muirhouse Road. His car then smashed into a wall.
Advocate depute Alex Prentice QC, prosecuting, said: “The accused was seen driving the Mondeo at excessive speed and causing some observers to make comments that the car was “flying past” and the accused was driving “like an idiot”.
Mr Prentice added: “One witness heard a scream cut short by a thud just before the collision with the wall.”
The court was told Ferris got out the car and spoke to Mrs Carson, who was lying on the pavement. What he said was not heard but a bystander then saw him put his hands to his head, shout “for f*’s sake” before jumping over the car bonnet and fleeing to his home in nearby Grange Tower.
Ferris, who returned to court on Friday to be sentenced, was told by a judge at the High Court in Edinburgh: “Your behaviour on that evening, when seen in the context of your previous offending, demonstrates you have no sense of the civilised values by which others in our community live their lives.”
Lord Turnbull said Mrs Carson was “in the prime of her life” who through the random timing of taking her dog for a walk found herself in the path of a drunk driver travelling at excessive speed.
He said the author of a background report on Ferris could “detect little by way of insight or genuine remorse” on his part.
He added: “The consequence of your conduct was predictable but it was also truly tragic for Mrs Carson and her family.”
The judge said the victim impact statements he had been given made “most distressing reading”.
Lord Turnbull told Ferris he would have jailed him or 12 years but for his guilty plea. He also banned him from driving for 12 years.
One of the people who tried to help Mrs Carson called the mobile number on the dog’s collar and spoke to her 47-year-old partner Robert Carson.
Mr Prentice previously told the court: “When he received the call, her husband rushed to the scene with his 11-year-old daughter. They were confronted with the tragic scene and had to be comforted by locals.
“Among those who gave assistance was a nurse, Patricia McDonald, who attempted CPR until the ambulance arrived.”
Mrs Carson died from multiple injuries. A head injury was the main factor in her death.
Ferris admitted causing the death of Mrs Carson by driving dangerously while under the influence of alcohol and at excessive speed.
He also pleaded guilty to driving while disqualified, with no insurance, no licence, attempting to defeat the ends of justice by throwing away the car keys and failing to admit he was the driver.
The court heard Ferris, from Motherwell, has a number of previous convictions including two for drink-driving. In fact, at the time of the death crash Ferris was awaiting sentence for one of the drink-driving offences and was disqualified. He was subsequently jailed for six months.
The court heard Ferris bought the Ford Mondeo a week earlier for £300. On the day of the crash he had been drinking Buckfast with friend David Russell, 27, who described them both as “pretty drunk”.
While they were both in the car outside Grange Tower before 5pm they had a row and the police were called.
At this point the car had no battery and no spark plugs. Both men were warned by the police and Mr Russell left. He later received a text from Ferris saying: “The motor is sorted.”
At 7pm, Ferris was seen carrying a car battery and a bottle of Buckfast and at 8.12pm he was caught on CCTV driving the car towards Muirhouse Road.
At around 8pm, Mrs Carson left her home in Gresham View, Motherwell, to walk the family pet. It was the last time her husband and daughter saw her alive.
Police went to Ferris’ flat 45 minutes later after witnesses said he had fled there after the crash.
Minutes earlier he had been seen dropping the car keys from the window of his second-floor flat. The officers had to force entry as Ferris ignored their knocking. They found him in bed holding a tissue to an injury to his left eye.
When he saw them he immediately became aggressive and told them to get out. When asked who had been driving the Ford Mondeo he replied: “Not me.”
A breath test taken 90 minutes after the fatal crash gave a reading of 63mcg. The legal limit is 22mcg.
When questioned by police, Ferris told them he had been driving on Muirhouse Road, adding: “I was driving past the shops when something went wrong with the motor when it wouldn’t stop and it struck the two pillars at Grange Tower. I panicked. I didn’t see anybody had been hurt and ran.”
He claimed he was unaware he had run Mrs Carson over but admitted he had been drinking Buckfast and thought he should not have been driving.
When asked if his judgment was impaired by the alcohol, he replied: “It could partially have been, yes.”