Pair convicted over Natasha Carruthers' death told to expect 'significant sentence'
The two men involved in the high speed chase which led to the death of Natasha Carruthers have appeared in court for the first time since they were first charged with their respective roles in the crash.
Padraig Toher (29), from Co Cavan, did not stand trial with co-defendant Nathan Phair, having admitted manslaughter as his BMW made "deliberate contact" causing death.
Toher of Bawnnoy, Ballyconnell admitted two counts of causing grievous bodily harm by dangerous driving, conspiring to possess cocaine and perverting the course of justice by arranging repairs to his BMW after the crash.
He could not be dealt with until the conclusion of Phair's trial, which took place last month at Dungannon Crown Court.
A jury took just over an hour to unanimously convict Phair of causing Natasha's death by dangerous driving, as well as grievous bodily injury to a second passenger, driving while unfit and possessing and supplying drugs.
Aged 23 and from Castlebalfour Park, Lisnaskea, Phair admitted driving without a licence or insurance on October 7, 2017, however, he was adamant that he bore no responsibility for Natasha's death following a high-speed chase. He also denied the drugs charges.
Natasha was the front-seat passenger in her Vauxhall Corsa, driven by Phair at Newbridge Road, Derrylin, which lost control, entered a clockwise rotation, struck a tree on the passenger side and continued on before coming rest on a hedge. The engine was jettisoned into a field.
Ejected on impact, Natasha was flung onto the road and she died instantly.
Andrew Waters (42) of Station Road, Florencecourt was a passenger in the chasing BMW and gave evidence against Phair during the four-week trial. He accepted being concerned in the supply of drugs in the run up to the collision and was given a suspended sentence last month.
The court was told yesterday of victim impact statements, provided by Natasha's mother and aunt, highlighting the devastating effect on a loving family and the long-term impact on Natasha's daughter.
Toher's defence counsel Arthur Harvey QC said his client fully acknowledged the devastating consequences of his role and knew he was wrong to leave the scene in the aftermath, which was down to sheer panic.
The court heard Toher slept in his car for two days before seeking psychiatric assistance at Cavan Hospital. He then handed himself into police and arranged for them to collect his car which he accepted he tried to repair.
Mr Harvey said: "He recognised the due day of punishment would come. He pleaded guilty at an early stage. His attitude is not based on self-pity. It is based on recognition and acceptance not to make the family go through a trial, hearing all the distressing details of every aspect."
Acknowledging Toher has a conviction in the Republic for dangerous driving and failing to remain, the defence said: "My client is an exemplary prisoner and has passed every drug test."
Moving to Phair, defence counsel Brian McCartney QC, said: "While the verdict is respected, it is not accepted...This was always about who caused the death of Natasha Carruthers. It has always been accepted my client never set out to harm, injure or kill anyone. He expressed genuine and spontaneous remorse at trial and events will change his life for a significant period."
Referring to the incident, the defence said: "My client suffered life-changing injuries and never once complained. He sustained multiple fractures including to his skull and spine and was in hospital for 20 days."
But Judge Neil Rafferty QC said: "And on release went out and stole a car which he drove dangerously. You can't really claim life-changing injuries if they don't change life."
Mr McCartney said a spinal fracture will have repercussions, but the judge held: "It is quite clear life-changing injuries refer to confinement to a wheelchair or 24-hour nursing care."
Adjourning sentencing, Judge Rafferty told the defendants: "I want to take time to assimilate and consider the proper approach to each of you. This case involves similar but different approaches. It is difficult to see how either of you can expect anything other than significant custodial sentence. A young woman died in tragic circumstances."
Sentencing will take place next month.