Crash death accused 'was being chased for drug cash'
A driver who lost control of a car and hit a tree resulting in a female passenger dying of horrific injuries has gone on trial accused of causing her death.
It is claimed the collision followed a high-speed pursuit after Nathan Charles Phair "performed a cheat or swindle" over a failed drug deal.
Phair (23), from Castlebalfour Park, Lisnaskea, Co Fermanagh, is charged with causing the death of Natasha Carruthers by dangerous driving on October 7, 2017, and grievous bodily injury to a second female passenger, both while having no licence or insurance He is also accused of possessing cocaine with intent to supply.
All matters were denied, but after a jury was sworn in at Dungannon Crown Court, defence counsel asked for Phair to be rearraigned on four charges of causing death and grievous bodily harm while unlicensed and uninsured.
Phair denied causing death or injury, but accepted driving without a licence or insurance.
Padraig Toher (28) of Bawnboy, Co Cavan, has admitted manslaughter and is not on trial with Phair.
Natasha Carruthers, from Letterbreen, died after being flung from the passenger seat of her own car, driven by Phair at Newbridge Road near Derrylin. She was 23 and the mother of a baby girl.
The collision was initially treated as a tragic accident, but after forensic examination police upgraded the investigation.
The jury heard the crash occurred during a high-speed chase. Natasha, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was hurled through the windscreen onto the road. A female seated behind Natasha suffered serious injuries.
Phair was also badly injured, with fractures to his skull, ribs, pelvis and collarbone.
Prosecution counsel David McDowell QC said: "The car chase came about in what appears to be a cheat or swindle performed by Phair in the course of his drug-dealing with Toher… he cheated him out of his money."
Toher asked for a larger quantity of drugs, paying €500 in advance, but Phair did not deliver and Toher wanted his money back, the court heard.
The following night it was said Toher found Phair in Letterbreen, in the driver's seat of the dead woman's Vauxhall Corsa. She was in the passenger seat, with the other female in the rear.
Toher got out of a black BMW holding a metal bar and demanded his money, then struck the windscreen, the court heard.
Phair drove away with Toher in pursuit. The chase lasted 12 miles and CCTV footage was collected from several points on the journey, with experts estimating speeds averaging 75mph.
The last piece of CCTV footage, about 500 metres from the crash scene, showed Toher try to overtake and Phair move to the middle of the road, the court heard.
The jury heard he was straddling the central line in the final seconds before losing control and smashing into the tree.
Toher drove off, and witnesses observed a number plate hanging from his car.
The jury heard Toher made "deliberate contact" with the car and as Natasha died as a result, he admitted manslaughter.
When interviewed, Phair said Toher attacked the car, causing him to panic, the court heard.
Mr McDowell told the jury they may hear a claim Phair acted under duress and outlined points for consideration.
These included whether there was a threat of death or serious injury and whether any reasonable person have responded similarly in the same circumstances.
He said against that, the jury must consider how dangerous Phair's driving was, with two passengers exposed to serious risk.
The trial continues.