Jailed: joyrider who ploughed into and killed Co Tyrone student
A car thief who killed a Co Tyrone student in England while “bulldozing” his way through traffic as he escaped from police has been jailed for nine-and-a-half years.
David Gaskell (21) mowed down 20-year-old Coalisland man Andrew O’Neill, who was studying at Liverpool John Moores University, late last year.
Gaskell’s driving was described as being like something from a “video game” as he swerved to avoid oncoming cars and pedestrians, Liverpool Crown Court heard yesterday.
Police tried to stop Gaskell, who was driving a stolen Audi QT car in Liverpool city centre at around 3.15am on November 27.
The court was shown CCTV footage of police officers surrounding the car and attempting to smash the vehicle's windows with batons.
But Gaskell, from Everton, drove the car over a pavement, narrowly avoiding two pedestrians, and then drove at speeds of up to 50mph the wrong way up a one-way street before hitting Mr O'Neill.
Robert Jansen, prosecuting, told the court that in a subsequent police interview Gaskell's co-accused Lewis Gandy (20), from Croxteth, admitted being in the car to go on a “joyride” and described the drive along Liverpool's Dale Street as “something like a video game where you swerve to avoid oncoming objects”.
Mr Jansen said the Audi hit a black taxi before colliding with Mr O'Neill.
The taxi driver described the Audi as “bulldozing its way through the traffic on Dale Street”, Mr Jansen said.
After hitting Mr O'Neill, who was known to university pals as ‘Chubby’, Gaskell again drove off in a further bid to escape capture.
The court heard that Mr O'Neill's body was dragged by the car for a distance of around 40 metres.
Gaskell then drove the car to a flyover where both he and Gandy jumped out and tried to escape on foot after the vehicle's airbags had activated.
Gaskell, who admitted causing death by dangerous driving, aggravated vehicle taking and driving while disqualified, jumped off the flyover and fell a distance of 20ft to the ground.
He broke his leg and was arrested by police.
Sentencing Gaskell and Gandy, the Recorder of Liverpool, judge Henry Globe QC, said: “In your interview, Gandy, you described the events as like a video game, swerving and having to avoid oncoming cars whilst all the while your vision was impaired by the damage to the windscreen.”
He told Gaskell: “In all, your case is almost as bad as any case could be.
“The only aggravating factor that doesn't apply to your case is the death of more than one person or injury to other people. That was an element of good fortune rather than any other factor.”
The court heard that Gaskell had previous convictions for dangerous driving.
In August 2007 he took his sister's car without consent and sped away from police officers, through red lights, mounting pavements and driving over grassed areas, narrowly avoiding other vehicles.
While in August 2009 he drove a stolen Peugeot car at speeds of more than 50mph, again just missing other cars, driving on the wrong side and through red lights.
Gandy was sentenced to four years in a young offenders’ institution after pleading guilty to aggravated vehicle taking.
Two other men, Jack Dempsey (23) and Christopher Doyle (22), both of Kensington in the city, were in the car before it hit Mr O’Neill.
Dempsey was given four months in jail, while Doyle was given one day's detention as a default sentence, as he was recalled to prison for breaching his parole.