Triple death drink-driver jailed for three years: Fury in court over sentence for killings

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The Independent Online
UPROAR broke out in a court yesterday when a drink-driver who killed three women was jailed for three years.

Relatives and friends of the three women - two sisters and their cousin - hurled abuse at William McCabe, 64, as he was taken to the cells at Liverpool Crown Court. While police struggled to restore order, they shouted 'murderer'.

McCabe, a laboratory technician at Liverpool University, pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink last 9 August. He had drunk more than twice the legal limit.

The court was told that the law had been changed a week after the accident, doubling the maximum sentence for the offence from five to 10 years.

Neil Flewitt, for the prosecution, said that the women - Ellen Costello, 33, and Frances Dykes, 40, the sisters, and their cousin, Pauline Williams, 40 - were using a pelican crossing on a dual carriageway in Liverpool when they were killed. They had just attended the funeral of the sisters' father and were walking, dressed in black, with arms linked.

The women had crossed one carriageway and were crossing the other when they were struck by McCabe's Peugeot car. All three were knocked high into the air.

McCabe, of Kirkdale, Liverpool, drove on with his windscreen shattered and bonnet damaged. He hit a parked car, knocking it onto its roof. He was later found wandering in a state of shock.

The three women had been on their way to a pub. 'They had spent the rest of the day (after the funeral) with relatives and friends in various public houses,' Mr Flewitt said. 'All three had been drinking alcohol . . . but those who saw them didn't describe them as drunk. And there was no evidence that their alcohol intake contributed to the accident.'

There was no evidence given in court about the signals on the pelican crossing at the time, although a witness did not hear any bleeping sound for people to cross. McCabe, who told police he had no recollection of the accident, said the lights were in his favour.

The court was told he had been drinking at a pub at Liverpool University. Witnesses saw him drink several cans of lager and one or two double gin and tonics. A member of the bar staff saw him knock over a glass on his table as he got up to leave. 'He was unsteady on his feet and appeared to be drunk,' Mr Flewitt added.

Andrew Mattison, for the defence, read a letter from McCabe expressing remorse. 'I will have it on my conscience for the rest of my life that I caused tragedy to other people . . . my own death would have been preferable to having to live with my own mind.'

Judge William Wickham, sentencing him to three years on each of three charges relating to the crash, to run concurrently, said: 'I accept your genuine remorse. You never intended to kill anybody. You intended to drive while unfit but didn't intend to kill.'

He also disqualified him from driving for five years.