Three years' jail for killing family of six

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The Independent Online

A Portuguese lorry driver was today jailed for three years for causing the deaths of a family of six.

David and Michelle Statham and their four children were driving home to North Wales when Paulo Jorge Nogueira da Silva's 40-tonne lorry smashed into their people carrier on the M6 at Sandbach, Cheshire, last October.

The couple died instantly at the scene along with sons Reece, 13, Jay, nine, and Mason, 20 months, and 10-week-old baby daughter Ellouise.



Passing sentence, trial judge Mr Justice Irwin jailed da Silva for three years on each count, telling the defendant he would serve 18 months in custody before being allowed out on licence.

Da Silva was also disqualified from driving for three years.



Mr Justice Irwin said: "This case arose from a terrible tragedy. 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."

The judge added: "The overwhelming aggravating feature of what happened is the number of those killed."

The jury returned its guilty verdict after just over six hours of deliberation.



The jury agreed by a majority of 11 to 1.

Outside court Cheshire chief crown prosecutor Ian Rushton said: "This is a tragic case where Michelle and David Statham died in a terrible car accident with their four children, Reece, Jay, Mason and Ellouise.

"The prosecution had to prove that not only did Mr da Silva's driving fall below the required standard, but as a direct result he killed the whole family in their car on the M6."

He said the evidence gathered by Cheshire Police showed that the Stathams' car was crushed between a large lorry, which had been queuing in a long tailback due to an earlier accident, and da Silva's lorry.

Mr Rushton added: "Da Silva admitted in court that he had seen the electronic signs warning that the M6 was closed ahead and that queues were likely. He said that he reduced his speed but could not explain how the collision happened.

"The prosecution said that it was clear that for a period of around a minute, Paulo da Silva was not paying proper attention to the road and fatally hit the Stathams' van with his 40-tonne lorry.

"We would like to thank the work of Cheshire Police who carried out a thorough investigation and all the witnesses who gave evidence in that case. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Mrs and Mr Statham and their children."



Mr Justice Irwin continued: "In my view the evidence does not show Mrs Statham crashed first. Even if she did it was overwhelmingly likely such a thing arose because you were bearing down on her from behind and she had nowhere to go.

"I bear in mind the maximum sentence is five years, although six deaths, this was one episode and the prison sentences must be concurrent.

"This was one of the most serious offences of its kind."

Da Silva 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.

Sitting behind the defendant in the public gallery Mrs Statham's parents Carole and Peter Hagans wiped away tears, both of them leaving shortly after the three-year prison sentence was delivered by the judge.

The family of the victims are expected to speak at a press conference at Chester Racecourse later this afternoon.





The accident happened as Mrs Statham, 33, a financial adviser, was driving home to North Wales on October 20 after the family had spent the weekend with her parents.

Baby Ellouise was next to her mother in a baby seat on the front passenger seat.

In the middle row of the seven-seat Toyota was Mr Statham, 38, a chef, and toddler Mason.

The two older boys were in the back row of seats.

The couple, who had been together for 19 years, had moved to Llandudno from Sutton Coldfield.

At about 10.35pm Mrs Statham came 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 in his 40-ton truck.

He was driving the DAF articulated lorry taking a consignment of fruit juice from Murcia to a Morrisons' distribution centre in Northwich, Cheshire.

Although he had made deliveries to the UK before it was da Silva's first trip to the Cheshire site.

The Toyota was crushed between the two HGVs.

The front of the car was forced underneath the rear of the lorry ahead of them and the passenger compartment crushed.

The crash caused a massive explosion and the car burst into flames.

All six of the Statham family were killed instantly.

Such was the ferocity of the smash the remains of the victims could not immediately be identified.

It was suggested to the jury that da Silva, a lorry driver for 21 years, may have been using a sat nav system on a laptop computer as he drove along the motorway.

He denied the claim and said he did not see the vehicles ahead until it was too late.