Belfast Telegraph

Jury told of message sent by Natasha Carruthers death crash accused from his hospital bed

Natasha Carruthers
Natasha Carruthers
The scene of the accident in which Natasha died, between Derrylin and Lisnaskea

By Staff Reporter

The jury in the trial of a Lisnaskea man accused of causing the death of Natasha Carruthers has heard the content of a social media message which he posted from his hospital bed days after the collision.

Now into the fourth week of trial, the prosecution formally closed its case yesterday at Dungannon Crown Court.

Nathan Phair (23), from Castlebalfour Park, was driving Ms Carruthers' Vauxhall Corsa in which she was the front passenger, which was being pursued by another man, 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, suffering injuries which caused her death.

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

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.

Last week it was disclosed Phair had drug levels in his bloodstream "well-above" therapeutic range at the time of the fatal collision.

An analysis of blood taken while he was being treated in the emergency department of South West Acute Hospital revealed high quantities of Xanax (also known as Alazopram). He was found to have 1.34mg of Xanax per litre, when the therapeutic range is around 0.002mg to 0.07mg per litre.

The drug is not available in the United Kingdom and is by prescription-only in the Republic of Ireland. It is used for anxiety-related conditions and is subject to abuse. Side-effects include reduced awareness and slowed reactions. Although this may not necessarily impact on driving ability, as reactions vary from person to person, the level of the drug could significantly impair driving performance generally.

After initial treatment Phair was transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast and it was while there, he posted the social media message, the court heard. Prosecution counsel David McDowell QC told the jury this read: "The Rat and that Padraig boy rammed me. I stroked them 500 Euro."

Although already aware of Toher's general role, the jury heard he accepted using his car as a weapon, resulting in the Corsa losing control leading to Natasha's death, and causing grievous bodily harm to Phair and the rear-seat passenger by driving dangerously. He also admits conspiring to possess cocaine and perverting justice by having his BMW repaired

In addition, prosecution counsel Michael McAleer disclosed an offence committed by Phair on November 23, 2017 - seven weeks after the fatal crash. He told the jury: "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 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'."

A blood sample taken while he was in custody showed various levels of multiple illegal substances.

The injured party described the Jeep being driven: "Dangerously on the wrong side of the road and swerving all over… I would consider this extremely dangerous driving."

The trial continues.

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