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Speedboat killer gets extra six months’ jail for skipping bail and missing trial

Jack Shepherd avoided eye contact with his victims’ parents as he appeared at the Old Bailey.

Jack Shepherd was brought back from Georgia on Wednesday (Special Penitentiary Service of Georgia/PA)
Jack Shepherd was brought back from Georgia on Wednesday (Special Penitentiary Service of Georgia/PA)

Speedboat killer Jack Shepherd has been jailed for a further six months for skipping bail and failing to attend his Old Bailey manslaughter trial.

He was brought before the court for the first time since he ran away ahead of his trial last summer for killing Charlotte Brown.

The 31-year-old, who was extradited from Georgia on Wednesday, looked down as the sentence was read out and left the dock without looking at either the public gallery or his victim’s parents.

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Charlotte Brown’s family were in court (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Appearing before trial judge Richard Marks QC, Shepherd pleaded guilty to breaching his bail and failing to attend court.

His lawyer, Andrew McGee, said Shepherd was “overwhelmed by his fear” of a prison sentence and wished to apologise to Ms Brown’s family.

Mr McGee added: “It was motivated entirely by a fear of the possible outcome of proceedings.

“He was terrified by the prospect of a prison sentence and he remains terrified by that prospect.

“It was not deliberately callous or cavalier. It was not cynical or calculated.”

It does seem to me ... this was somebody who realised the net was closing in Trial judge Richard Marks QC

The lawyer said the defendant had “ultimately chosen to acquiesce to extradition” against legal advice in Georgia and said the judge should take note of his guilty plea on Thursday.

Judge Marks responded: “The case is overwhelming, unanswerable; however, you are entitled to one third discount.”

Passing sentence, the judge told Shepherd that his was an “exceptional case”,

In making a “conscious, deliberate and considered decision” to go on the run he had “hugely added to the distress of Charlotte’s family who could not have known when, if at all, you would be apprehended, you the person who had spent the last hours of her life with their beloved daughter and sister”.

Ordering him to serve a further six months on top of his six-year sentence for manslaughter, he said: “Your conduct in absenting yourself from justice for so long was as cowardly as it was selfish.”

Judge Marks said Shepherd’s absence from his trial interfered with the administration of justice.

He said: “A serious and highly unusual feature of the case was the fact that, although your lawyers were unaware of your whereabouts, you have provided them with a means of communicating with you, although I was not told of the mechanism as to how this worked.

“The effect of this was, as I gleaned during the trial, that notes of the entirety of the evidence were being sent to you on a frequent basis via the internet were received from you about certain aspects of the case.

“In other words, you were in effect having your cake and eating it. This is not how our system of justice is intended to operate.”

The court heard that the defendant travelled to Georgia in March 2018 and was in phone contact with his lawyers on May 14.

He also received daily transcripts of the evidence throughout his trial.

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Jack Shepherd was extradited from Georgia on Wednesday (Special Penitentiary Service of Georgia/PA)

Judge Marks said: “It was widely publicised your client was understood to be in Georgia and against that background it does seem to me this is not a case of somebody who entirely off his own bat has thought better of his situation and decided to surrender – rather that this was somebody who realised the net was closing in and that was the background in which he surrendered.”

Last year, Shepherd was found guilty in his absence of Ms Brown’s manslaughter in a speedboat accident on the River Thames and sentenced to six years in jail.

Afterwards, the 24-year-old victim’s devastated parents, Graham Brown and Roz Wickens, expressed their anger at his failure to face the consequences, having attended every day of his trial.

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Charlotte Brown’s family arrive at the Old Bailey (Victoria Jones/PA)

Shepherd, originally from Exeter, last appeared at the Old Bailey in November 2017 when he pleaded not guilty to manslaughter by gross negligence and was granted bail.

His trial was told that he was responsible for the speedboat, which had a series of serious defects, including to its steering.

Jurors heard that he and Ms Brown had been drinking champagne and went on a late-night high-speed jaunt in his boat past the Houses of Parliament on their first date in December 2015.

Shepherd had handed the controls to Ms Brown just before it capsized, tipping both of them into the cold water, the court was told.

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The speedboat owned by web designer Jack Shepherd (Metropolitan Police/PA)

The defendant was plucked from the Thames alive but his date was killed.

As he returned to Britain on Wednesday night, Shepherd said he had acted on “emotion and fear” when he fled the UK and now wants to “make amends”.

Shepherd has already launched an appeal against his conviction.

PA

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