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Speedboat death accused ‘did not ask if date could swim’

Jack Shepherd denies manslaughter by gross negligence over the death of Charlotte Brown in December 2015.

A web designer accused of killing a young woman when his speedboat capsized on the Thames admitted: “I did not even ask if she could swim,” a court heard.

Jack Shepherd had allegedly tried to seduce 23-year-old Charlotte Brown with a boozy meal at the Shard and a champagne boat trip to Westminster after they met through a dating website.

But on giving her the wheel for a “thrill”, the speeding vessel hit a tree trunk and capsized on the evening of December 8 2015, the Old Bailey heard.

Afterwards, the 30-year-old told police his boat had been going “full throttle”.

He said: “Neither of us were wearing life jackets, although there were two between the seats.

“She would not have known they were there and I did not point them out. I did not even ask if she could swim.”

Jurors were told that if Ms Brown had been wearing a life jacket, it would have “increased the probability” of her survival in the water.

A post-mortem examination gave the cause of death as cold water immersion.

The officer pointed out to him both of them should be wearing life jackets as it was an important safety issue. Aftab Jafferjee QC

Prosecutor Aftab Jafferjee QC said Shepherd had been advised by police about wearing jackets on more than one occasion in the past.

On August 22 2015, he had gone on a date with Amy Warner, another young woman he asked out via a dating app.

Giving evidence, Ms Warner said it was a “nice summer’s day” when they met at Hammersmith Tube Station.

He took her to his houseboat where he keeps the speedboat moored up before telling her of his plan to go on the river.

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Amy Warner leaving the Old Bailey. She told jurors she asked Jack Shepherd to “slow down” on their date in his speedboat (PA/Emily Pennink)

Ms Warner told jurors how she became uncomfortable as they travelled in the “red and quite old-looking” boat towards the Shard.

She said: “He was driving quite fast, obviously from other surroundings, boat traffic coming towards us, the water was quite choppy. I asked Jack to slow down.

“In comparison to the slower boats, tourist boats on the river at the time, it did feel a lot faster.”

Ms Warner said they were stopped by marine police officers who advised Shepherd about going over the speed limit.

Shepherd took her to the smart Sushisamba restaurant in the Heron Tower, where they shared a bottle of wine with their meal, jurors heard.

Ms Warner said: “I noticed he was a lot more tipsy that I was. He was a lot more drunk that I was.”

By 11pm, she had decided she wanted to leave, and she left in a taxi alone after rejecting the offer of another drink in a bar.

Mr Jafferjee asked: “The decision to leave, was that in any way connected to the state you observed in him?”

Ms Warner replied: “Yes, partly.”

Shepherd asked her out again, but she declined, the court heard.

I remember saying to him: 'Can you slow down?' Amy Warner

Under cross-examination, it was suggested she never voiced concern about Shepherd’s speed.

But the witness insisted: “I remember saying to him: ‘Can you slow down?'”

On September 10, marine police caught up with Shepherd again, heading upstream towards his houseboat in Hammersmith, the court heard.

They estimated he was doing 30 knots, which is more than twice the 12 knot limit.

They advised Shepherd that wearing life jackets was a “sensible thing to do” as well as making sure the kill cord was attached, jurors heard.

Mr Jafferjee said none of the warnings were heeded by the defendant.

On the night of the accident, the boat was estimated to be going on average 30 knots on the way to Westminster and between 22 and 29 knots on the return journey when tragedy struck.

At the time of a “glancing blow” to a large tree trunk, the boat was going about 20 knots, it was claimed, and Ms Brown was in no condition to avert the danger.

The court also heard how the speedboat had a number of defects, including “poor and sloppy steering” and a “partially opaque” windscreen.

Shepherd, who is being tried in his absence at the Old Bailey, denies manslaughter by gross negligence.

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