Father's fury over crash jail sentence

Portuguese lorry driver gets three years for killing family in M6 pile-up
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The Independent Online

A father said justice had not been done yesterday after a foreign lorry driver who "butchered" six members of his family in a motorway crash was jailed for three years.

Michelle Statham, 33, husband, David, 38, and their children, sons Reece, 13, Jay, nine, Mason, 20 months and 10-week-old daughter Ellouise were killed instantly after their Toyota was involved in a five-vehicle pile-up between junctions 16 and 17 on the M6 at Sandbach, Cheshire, last October.

Portugese lorry driver Paulo Jorge Nogueira da Silva, 46, was found guilty at Chester Crown Court yesterday of six counts of causing death by careless driving.

He was found not guilty of causing death by dangerous driving.

Sentencing, Mr Justice Irwin said: "Anyone who has heard the case could not help but have strong, indeed overwhelming, sympathy for the families of those who died, a whole family wiped out."

But after the sentencing, Michelle's father, Peter Hagans, compared the trial of Da Silva, who will be released in less than 18 months, to a "circus".

The trial heard Da Silva may have been using a laptop in his cab to navigate his route and missed motorway signs warning of queuing traffic ahead.

He had been careless and not paying attention, the jury were told.

Mr Hagans said: "From the night when Mr Da Silva butchered our family it was not possible for us to get justice in a British court.

"In our opinion, what we sat through this week was no more than a circus, the only difference being the man in charge of a circus wears a top hat not a wig. Our lives have been devastated, nothing will ever be the same for us, our hearts have been broken.

"The many tributes to Michelle, Dave and the children have made us realise just how much this tragedy has affected people from all over the country."

Mrs Statham, a financial adviser, was driving her family home to Llandudno, north Wales, after spending a weekend with her parents in Birmingham, when the accident happened on the M6.

At about 10.35pm, Mrs Statham came up behind a large container lorry which was at the back of a traffic queue caused by the closure of the motorway further north.

Seconds later the car was hit from behind by Da Silva, driving an articulated lorry taking a consignment of fruit juice from Murcia, Spain, to a Morrisons' distribution centre in Northwich, Cheshire.

Although he had made deliveries to Britain before, it was Da Silva's first trip to the Cheshire site.

The Toyota was sandwiched between a large lorry in front of them and Da Silva's vehicle. The crash caused a massive explosion and the Toyota burst into flames.

Da Silva, who had been a lorry driver for 21 years, denied using the satellite navigation system on a laptop computer as he drove along and told the jury he did not see the vehicles ahead until it was too late.

He made no reaction as the verdicts were delivered but his son, sitting in the public gallery, burst into tears with his head in his hands.

Alan Moult, Mr Statham's uncle, said: "We can now start to wrap David, Michelle, Reece, Jay, Mason and Ellouise in our hearts and minds and move forward. Although we will never stop grieving we can now begin to live again."

Superintendent Guy Hindle, from Cheshire Police, said: "This tragedy is not about foreign lorry drivers on British roads. It is about a dreadful crash that wiped out a generation of one family and was due to one driver's gross inattention."

He added: "Inattention on the road can be fatal. We can all pay more attention when we drive."