A drink driver who used his van to deliberately drive at and kill one man and seriously injure another was today (Wednesday, November 15) given a life prison sentence with a minimum of more than 27 years behind bars.

Toby Kelly, who was under investigation at the time for a similar incident outside a Blyth nightclub months earlier, was said to be angry at the behaviour of his girlfriend in the Bay Horse Inn, at Cramlington, and then enraged at attempts by his victims to prevent him driving from the pub car park while heavily under the influence of drink.

Newcastle Crown Court heard he drove erratically around the car park, surging forwards and reversing aggressively, making Sheldon Flanighan and his friend Wayne Common have to jump out of the way to avoid the Ford Transit van.

He then reversed into and over Mr Flanighan, and also knocked over Mr Common before leaving the car park at speed.

The Northern Echo: Toby Kelly, inset right, given a life sentence with a minimum term of more than 27 years for the

Mr Flanighan, 55, an off-duty long-serving member of the North East Ambulance Service, was declared dead by colleagues who arrived at the scene and tried to save him.

Mr Common, also then 55, suffered serious multiple injuries and was taken for emergency treatment to hospital.

Although he survived, he was left with long-term injuries both physically and psychologically, having suffered the loss of his friend of 40 years.

Kelly then made efforts to remove evidence, pulling up in a cul-de-sac and wiping blood from the van, and also apparently smashing the dash cam, at the front of the vehicle.

One of his two friends in the van then took over the driving, fleeing the vehicle when it was pulled over in Blyth, minutes later, although he was arrested a short time afterwards.

Kelly, by now in the passenger seat, and his girlfriend were arrested and he claimed not to have been driving at the time they left the Cramlington pub.

He also refused to provide a specimen of breath for analysis.

All three occupants of the van were initially charged with Mr Flanighan’s murder and the attempted murder of Mr Common.

But the charges were subsequently dropped against David Fairclough, 32, of Newbiggin-by-Sea, and the now 28-year-old Shannon Wooden, of Blyth.

Kelly maintained his denials to both murder and attempted murder when his trial began at the court on October 10.

Midway through proceedings he offered a guilty plea to Mr Flanighan’s manslaughter.

But, at the conclusion of the trial, last Thursday (November 9) the jury found him guilty of both the murder and attempted murder counts.

He was remanded in custody pending today’s sentencing hearing, when submissions were made by prosecution and defence counsel over the length of sentence.

The court also heard victim impact statements given, in person, by Mr Flanighan’s sister, Julia Burnett, and on Mr Common’s behalf.

Mrs Burnett said the loss of her and sister Sharon’s brother, and his sons’, Calvin and Joe’s father, plus the son of Mr Flanighan's elderly parents has had a “devastating impact” on all of them.

She said they were “utterly broken”, with both sons and her sister still receiving counselling, while the death of Mr Flanighan has coincided with a deterioration in the health of his parents, in care.

Mr Common was said to still have ongoing issues affecting both his physical and mental health and, on his own admission, he is not the same man he was prior to the tragic incident.

The court heard that he also suffers some form of so-called “survivor guilt”, being still alive while his long-time friend was killed.

Nigel Edwards KC, representing Kelly, a father-of-four, with past convictions for motoring offences, including drink driving, said although it may sound “hollow” he is “sincerely sorry” for the events of that night.

Passing sentence, Judge Penny Moreland told Kelly: “As a result of your criminal conduct, Sheldon Flanighan died and Wayne Common suffered serious physical and psychological injuries.

“No sentence I can pass can bring Sheldon Flanighan back to his family.

“No sentence I can pass will heal Mr Common’s injuries.

“No-one can undo the harm you have done and the pain and grief you have caused.”

Judge Moreland said while it was right that Ms Wooden caused the first trouble, throwing beer and glasses behind the bar in the Bay Horse, Kelly was then “difficult and intimidating” to the young bar staff when he was refused further service.

He then retaliated after being struck by Ms Wooden, casing her a facial injury, before dragging her from the pub.

When Mr Flanighan and Mr Common, both described as “decent men” by Judge Moreland, then intervened to try to prevent him further assaulting Ms Wooden or driving the van in his drunken condition, Kelly turned his anger onto them.

“You had been, throughout, asserting your dominance and you were affronted and angered by their intervention.

“I’m satisfied you had no intention of leaving the car park.

“Your intention was to use the van as a weapon.

“Having heard the evidence, I’m sure you intended to kill Sheldon Flanighan, driving aggressively around the car park on two or three occasions.

“You drove so fast onlookers thought you were going to drive into the pub and you drove at Sheldon Flanighan and Wayne Common, who had to jump out of the way.”

She said it is thought by experts that Mr Flanighan was reversed at and then driven over by Kelly, while Mr Common was also knocked down and driven over by the van.

“You were aware on each and every occasion you drove over them and you knew exactly what you were doing.

“You then left and did what you could to evade detection.”

Judge Moreland said she was satisfied that he behaved in a similar fashion, driving at people outside a Blyth nightclub after Ms Wooden was ejected for her behaviour and he was also asked to leave, in July 2022.

It was an incident which was under investigation by police at the time of the events outside the Cramlington pub, late on April 1 this year.

See more court stories from The Northern Echo, by clicking here

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Judge Moreland imposed a life sentence with a minimum tariff of 28 years, less 226 days spent on remand, before Kelly may be released by the Parole Board.

She also imposed a life sentence with a minimum term of 13 years and 149 days, for the attempted murder of Mr Common, but it will be served concurrently (alongside) to the sentence for Mr Flanighan’s murder.

Upon his eventual release Kelly will be banned from driving for three years.