A MOTHER who caused a head-on crash which killed her own three-year-old daughter and teenage cousin has been jailed for three years and eight months.

Mary Michelle Stokes, 23, had been showing off to her young passengers by driving an unroadworthy car aggressively, at high speeds and overtaking other vehicles on September 2, last year.

Her “persistent and deliberately bad driving” led to her hitting a Mercedes van which was travelling in the opposite direction on the A1086 between Horden and Blackhall Colliery.

Her daughter, Kelsey Marie, was thrown from the car and killed, Richard Bennett, prosecuting, told Durham Crown Court today.

The defendant’s 17-year-old cousin Shauna Stokes, who was travelling in the back of the car, was thrown partly out of the car and died of head and trunk injuries in hospital the following day.

Mr Bennett said that earlier that day, Stokes had been seen driving the blue Peugeot 206 erratically in Peterlee leisure centre car park with two toddlers in the vehicle.

And in the moments before the fatal incident, other motorists saw the car being driven “at speed” along the Coast Road before she had to slow for a line of traffic.

She then carried out a U-turn and drove off in the opposite direction.

One witness said he commented to his passengers that the car was likely to crash.

And another driver, who had to mount a kerb to get out of her way, said her driving was so bad she assumed she was in a police pursuit or racing another vehicle.

Stokes then tried to overtake a BMW, lost control and crashed into the van around half a mile away from the U-turn site.

The court heard that the five-seater Peugeot had failed its MoT and been sold for scrap and was overloaded with six people, most of whom were not wearing seatbelts or in child car seats.

Stokes, of Cairo Street, Sunderland, but originally from County Derry, had no driving licence – having only taken a few driving lessons – or insurance.

People who stopped at the scene to help were confronted by seven casualties and saw that the engine of the Peugeot had detached from the car.

The van driver was rushed to hospital and remained immobile for three months while he recovered from chest, feet and hand injuries.

In a victim impact statement read out in court, he said: “This caused me embarrassment, humiliation, I was unable to wash and cut the food on my plate.

“My wife has been my carer, taken hours of work to look after me.

“I’ve had 28 hospital appointments and three operations to date.”

Three other youngsters were seriously injured in the crash.

Stokes, who is now 36 weeks pregnant, herself suffered serious leg and pelvis injuries and still requires crutches to walk.

David Outterside, mitigating, said no words could adequately reflect the remorse and devastation Stokes feels about the incident and that she is “bereft” at the loss of her daughter and cousin.

He said: “She is keenly aware that both of them had their lives ahead of them, her grief and dealing with all of this is made all the more difficult knowing that her own actions are responsible for the loss of those two lives.”

Once an “effervescent character”, she now suffers “crippling depression and grief”, he said.

Mr Outterside said the defendant was married at 16, became a teenage mother and had suffered an abusive relationship which was now over.

“She was vulnerable before this tragic accident, is even more so now and will be for the rest of her life,” he added.

Judge James Adkin said on the day of the crash, Stokes had appeared focused on giving the occupants of her car a thrill, throwing them around in the vehicle, rather than “shielding them from harm”.

He told Stokes: “There is evidence you were showing off to the passengers in your car that day.”

And he said: “This was persistent and it was deliberate bad driving.”

He sentenced Stokes to a total of 44 months in prison for two counts of causing death by dangerous driving and four of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, to which she had previously pleaded guilty.

She was also disqualified from driving for seven years.

Judge Adkin told Stokes: “You are 23 and have lost a child by your own actions. I’m sure your life will be forever shaped by the fact you caused the death of someone you loved deeply, and someone you should have been nurturing and protecting.”

He said her “immature and thoughtless showing off” had ruined her own life, cost two young lives, caused “agonising injury” to four other people and long-lasting pain for her own and other families.

Following the hearing, Sergeant Cat Iley, of Durham police, said: “This was a horrific incident for all those involved, including the emergency service workers who attended the scene.

“Our thoughts remain with the family and friends of the two girls who tragically lost their lives in this collision.”


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