Driver who cried ‘I’ve killed a kid’ after hitting girl, 8, jailed for 3 years

A driver who mowed down a girl as she crossed the road while he was frustrated because of gridlocked traffic has been jailed for three years.

Jon-Paul Caruana, 25, was driving through residential Salford at a “grossly excessive speed” when his car struck eight-year-old Emily Esme Connor at 47mph.

The little girl and her grandma had been walking to the Trafford Centre to see Christmas lights on a Saturday morning in November 2018 when the tragedy happened.

Caruana had beeped his horn and tried to swerve to avoid the child, but hit her, Manchester Evening News reports the court heard.

He struck a wall and his Vauxhall Corsa – which was also transporting his baby son, partner and friend – flipped and hit Emily for a second time.

In the moments after the tragic collision the “highly distressed” driver was heard to cry: “I’ve killed a kid”.

Not long before the collision, Caruana had picked up a friend and, as he approached, his partner sent a Whatsapp message stating: “He’s breaking speed barriers to be with you in a minute.”

Yesterday father-of-one Caruana was jailed for three years and four months after pleading guilty to causing death by dangerous driving at Manchester Crown Court.

Sentencing the defendant, Judge David Stockdale QC said: “This is a classic example of an appalling case that follows from a bout of driving at grossly excessive speed where pedestrians are about.”

Prosecutor Gavin Howie told the court how Emily and her grandmother Dorothy Simpson Wheeler had been dropped off on Monton Road, in Salford, by a family friend on the morning of November 10, 2018.

Mrs Wheeler briefly boarded a bus to ask if it was heading to the Trafford Centre and was told to cross the road to the opposite bus stop, Mr Howie said.

The grandmother held Emily’s hand and they began to cross the road together.

At the same time, Caruana was driving down Monton Road with his four month old son, his partner, and a friend as passengers.

One witness saw Emily briefly let go of her grandmother’s hand and heard a car horn before seeing Caruana’s car being “driven frantically” in the 30mph zone, the court heard.

Mr Howie said Caruana’s car swerved but hit Emily, who was “thrust” into the air.

The car hit a small wall, rolled over on impact and hit Emily for a second time.

Caruana could be heard to shout “I’ve killed a kid” as a passerby called 999 for an ambulance.

Paramedics tried to save the little girl but she was pronounced dead.

Mr Howie said the defendant had been “distracted and in a rush” to pick up a friend on his way to work that morning.

He had been forced to briefly return to his own home to pick up a fob so he could access his work building, he added.

When arrested he told police he had smoked “half a joint” the previous night but tested negative for cannabis, cocaine and alcohol at the roadside, the barrister said.

Another driver was overtaken by Caruana’s Corsa which she said was driving “very fast”.

During a police interview Caruana told officers he thought he had been travelling at 30mph.

He said: “There was absolutely no chance that I was going to miss her. I did my best.”

He told police he had been “chilled” as he drove towards his place of work in Salford Quays, picking up a friend on the way.

A traffic collision officer from Greater Manchester Police assessed that Caruana had in fact been travelling at 47mph at the moment of impact and at around 50mph in the moments before that, Mr Howie explained.

The court heard how Caruana’s partner had sent a picture to their friend showing traffic conditions on the road.

Caruana told police he took the picture while the car was stationary.

But he said his partner had taken his phone off him when he was driving and he had not used it.

His partner also sent messages to the friend Caruana was picking up explaining their whereabouts and wrote: “He’s breaking speed barriers to be with you in a minute.”

Mr Howie said: “This defendant was driving at a grossly excessive speed and that caused a substantial risk of danger.”

In victim personal statements read out to the court, Emily’s father Daniel Connor described his daughter as “the bridge between family members because of her amazing personality”.

She was a popular girl with many friends, had a wonderful relationship with her older brothers and “brought life and energy to the house”, the court heard.

Emily loved singing and dancing and was a “wonderful young girl” and a “shining light”, her dad said.

“Knowing the boys need me has kept me going," he added. "We’re trying to do normal things but there is always a darkness when we remember Emily is not with us.”

Emily’s mother Mrs Connor said the little girl was adored by everyone, had a “full heart” and “was the warm heart of this family”.

Caruana, of Lawndale Drive, Worsley, pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving.

Richard Littler QC, defending, said Caruana – who has no previous convictions – has been devastated by the incident.

“Two families have been devastated as a result of this tragic accident,” he said.

“It’s fully accepted that the devastation to Emily’s family is far greater than any to this defendant and his young family. But this was a tragic accident.”

Caruana, he said, was “heavily distressed” at the scene of the collision and was sometimes "inconsolable" during police interview.

Mr Littler said Caruana returned to the scene of the crash on the first anniversary of Emily’s death in order to lay flowers.

A neighbour who had attended Emily’s funeral saw him there and embraced him “because she was fully aware of the effect this has had on this defendant and could see how he was behaving.”

The court heard how Caruana had even sought the advice of a priest in the wake of Emily’s death.

“This is an incident that will stay with this defendant for the rest of his life,” Mr Littler said.

“His fiance has said ‘this is going to be a daily recurring nightmare for him’.”

Judge Stockdale QC jailed Caruana for 40 months and disqualified him from driving for a total of four years and eight months – a term which will begin on his release from prison.

He will remain disqualified from driving until he passes an extended retest.

“Emily was a happy, healthy eight year old girl,” the judge said.

“She was doing well at school and was loved by her parents and by her two older brothers.

“She was to be described by her father as ‘the bridge between the family members’.

“Her mother described Emily as ‘the glue that held the family together’.”

Judge Stockdale said Caruana had been driving at a “grossly excessive speed” and failed to react to traffic conditions.

Though satisfied that Caruana is “genuinely remorseful and sorry”, the judge said no sentence could compensate Emily’s family for their loss.

“There are no winners in a case like this, only losers,” he said.

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