Belfast Telegraph

Drug levels of death crash accused Nathan Phair were 'well above' therapeutic range

Natasha Carruthers
Natasha Carruthers

By Staff Reporter

The trial of a 23-year-old man accused of causing the death of Natasha Carruthers by dangerous driving, has heard evidence of an offence he committed weeks after the horror smash.

As the third week of trial at Dungannon Crown Court drew to a close, it was further disclosed the accused had drug levels in his bloodstream "well-above" therapeutic range at the time of the fatal collision.

Nathan Phair from Castlebalfour Park, Lisnaskea was driving Ms Carruther's Vauxhall Corsa, in which she was the front passenger, as it was being pursued by co-defendant Padraig Toher in a BMW.

While Phair has accepted having no licence or insurance, he denies causing Natasha's death and grievous injury to a second passenger on October 7, 2017, following a high-speed chase, allegedly after a failed drug deal.

He also denies drugs charges.

After a 12-mile chase, during which speeds at times reached 100mph, the Corsa lost control, spun clockwise and struck a tree on the passenger side.

Ms Carruthers was flung onto the road, sustaining severe injuries which rapidly caused her death.

Toher (28), from Co Cavan, has already admitted manslaughter as his BMW made "deliberate contact" causing death, and is not on trial.

The jury heard yesterday analysis of Phair's blood taken at South West Acute Hospital in the aftermath of the crash revealed high quantities of Xanax (also known as Alazopram).

The drug is not available in the United Kingdom and by prescription-only in the Republic. It is used for anxiety-related conditions and is subject to abuse. Side-effects include reduced awareness and slowed reactions.

Phair's blood analysis showed him to have 1.34mg of Xanax per litre, described as "well above therapeutic range", which is usually around 0.002mg to 0.07mg per litre.

While this did not necessarily impact on Phair's ability to drive as individual reactions vary, it was suggested that the level of the drug could significantly impair driving performance generally.

Although already aware of Toher's role in the matter, the jury heard the full extent of what he has accepted.

He admits using his car as a weapon against the Corsa resulting in its loss of control, killing Natasha, as well as causing grievous bodily harm to Phair and the rear-seat passenger by driving dangerously.

Perverting the course of justice by arranging to have his own car repaired is accepted as well as conspiracy to possess cocaine.

Andrew Waters, frequently referred to in court by his nickname 'The Rat', who gave evidence against Phair, admits to being concerned in supplying and offering to supply cocaine.

Prosecution counsel Michael McAleer disclosed an offence committed by Phair on November 23, 2017 - seven weeks after the fatal crash.

He pleaded guilty at Enniskillen Magistrates Court last year to driving while unfit, possessing cannabis, driving without a licence or insurance, dangerous driving and vehicle theft.

Mr McAleer told the jury in that instance: "Police received a 999 call from the injured party reporting his jeep had just been stolen from his driveway and that he was pursuing it and a convoy vehicle (a Renault Megane) that appeared also to be involved. He remained on the phone updating the call handler with the direction of travel."

Over the course of around 10 miles the jeep, travelled from where it was stolen in Boa Island, through Kesh, then Ederney and into the countryside.

The injured party observed it collide with the Megane before attempting to U-turn.

He exited his vehicle and apprehended the man driving the stolen jeep, restraining him until police arrived.

Mr McAleer said: "This man was the defendant, Nathan Phair who said to the injured party, 'leave me alone. I'm off my head on pills'. The Megane made off, however, police later apprehended it and the driver was successfully prosecuted."

Phair meanwhile, was arrested and a blood sample taken which on analysis showed various levels of illegal substances including MDMA, MDA, Tramadol, Oxazepam, Temazepam, Carboxy-THC and Diazepam.

In a statement to police the injured party described the jeep being driven "dangerously on the wrong side of the road and swerving all over".

He also stated it: "Went completely over to the other lanes on the road. It then swerved back in. I would consider this extremely dangerous driving."

The trial resumes on Monday.

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