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Man admits dangerous driving charge over girlfriend’s death in police chase

Craig Kearney drove ‘at extremely high speed’ when officers spotted a drone near HMP Wandsworth.

A suspected smuggler has admitted killing his girlfriend in a high-speed police chase sparked by a drone hovering over a prison.

Craig Kearney, 27, of Southall, Middlesex, was left seriously injured in the crash that killed nursery worker Acacia Smith near Wandsworth Prison on August 9 2016.

Police were alerted to a drone being flown near the jail in the early hours and pursued Kearney’s silver Peugeot.

Minutes later the mangled wreckage of the car could be seen nearby in Wandsworth Bridge Road.

At a hearing at the Old Bailey, Kearney pleaded guilty to a single charge of causing Ms Smith’s death by dangerous driving.

Prosecutor Nathan Rasiah told the court the defendant drove at “extremely high speed in an attempt to evade a police pursuit”.

Officers who discovered the debris from the car found it so damaged they did not immediately recognise it.

One of them said it was “totally crumpled, as though it had been taken to the car pound and crushed”.

As they tried to help the trapped driver, he was shouting Ms Smith’s name and alerting them that someone was in the flattened passenger side.

Ms Smith died from “multiple injuries”, the lawyer said.

He told the court a drone was found inside the wreckage and flight logs showed it had taken off near the prison.

Cannabis wraps, “psychoactive” substances and small mobile phones were also found in the car.

Mr Rasiah said the evidence suggested the defendant had been involved in smuggling contraband into HMP Wandsworth.

He said an analysis of CCTV from Wandsworth Bridge Road showed the Peugeot was travelling at an average speed of up to 91mph.

The police chase, over one mile, lasted 69 seconds.

The court heard that Kearney, a habitual cannabis smoker, had 15 previous convictions, including speeding and driving with no insurance.

The prosecutor told the court the maximum sentence was 14 years, and the defendant’s dangerous driving fell into the most serious category.

Judge Richard Marks QC confirmed “the offence arose in the context of the activity in which he had been involved which was flying drugs and phones by drone into Wandsworth Prison”.

The court also heard that Kearney had cocaine and cannabis in his system at the time of the crash.

Ms Smith’s grandfather described the 25-year-old nursery worker as a “strong, bubbly, amazing young lady” who had dreams of travelling and opening her own business.

Lester Smith said: “We had a very close relationship. She was my special girl. She was my granddaughter and I loved her very much.

“Acacia was supposed to bury me but instead, because of Craig and Craig alone, the saddest day of my life, I buried her.

“Her life cut short, Acacia can never be replaced. Life will never be the same.

“Nothing will bring her back and nothing will ever make this OK.”

Mitigating, Alex Jamieson said the defendant wished to apologise.

He said: “Miss Smith died at his hands. It was his fault and no-one else.

“He and Miss Smith loved each other. They had been together for eight years. They were committed to each other. Their families were enmeshed.

“He has killed the woman he loves. This is something he will have to bear for the rest of his life.”

Judge Marks said his apology would have carried “more weight” if Kearney had not lied to police and pleaded guilty straight away.

Kearney will be sentenced later on Thursday.

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