US heir Ryan LeVin charged over deaths of Britons

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The Independent US

An American playboy has been charged in connection with the death of two British businessmen who were mown down in a hit-and-run crash, a lawyer acting for the family of one of the victims said.

Kenneth Watkinson, 48, of Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, and Craig Elford, 39, of Ratley, Oxfordshire, were both killed as they walked to their ocean-front hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on February 13 last year.

A white Porsche GT2 owned by 35-year-old Ryan LeVin, the heir to a jewellery empire, mounted the kerb, hitting the two Britons before speeding off.

Jonathan Pavsner, who represents Mr Watkinson's widow Kirsty and their three children, said the local state attorney's office had charged LeVin with two counts of vehicular homicide and two counts of leaving the scene of an accident causing death.

Each of the vehicular homicide charges could carry up to 15 years in prison.

Mr Pavsner said LeVin was expected to hand himself in to police, possibly later today, to face the charges.

He added that LeVin, who has a history of motoring offences and drug abuse, attempted to claim a friend, Derek W Cook, had been driving the performance car when the accident happened.

But police stopped the car only 12 minutes before the accident for driving away quickly from a green light and because of a loud exhaust, and LeVin had been at the wheel at that point.

Just moments before the crash, the Porsche and a BMW belonging to Cook were caught on camera speeding along the road before the Porsche lost control.

The Porsche was later found abandoned after police failed to stop the damaged car as it drove at speeds in excess of 100mph.

Cook has been charged with being an accessory after the fact and aggravated fleeing and eluding. He is free on 8,500 dollars bail.

At the time of the crash, LeVin, who has a record of more than 50 traffic offences, was on probation for a high-speed police chase in Chicago that left one police officer and two drivers hurt.

He also served six months in prison last year for violating his probation by failing to complete a drug treatment programme.

Mr Pavsner said if LeVin did not hand himself in to police, officers would be sent to arrest him.

He added that as well as the criminal case, the families of the two victims were suing him for compensation.

He said of Mr Watkinson: "He was a husband and a father of three and they are suffering the worst loss imaginable."

LeVin is the son of Shirley and Arthur LeVin, who founded Jewels by Park Lane, a Chicago-based business which calls itself the "world's leading direct sales fashion jewellery company".

Mr Watkinson and Mr Elford ran a pharmaceutical business, Ingala Healthcare, and were in America to recruit employees.

Mr Watkinson was living in Harbury, near Leamington Spa, with his second wife Kirsty and son Max, now aged five.

He also leaves two children from his first marriage, Jonathan, 20, and Stephanie, 17.

Mr Elford was the father of a newborn baby girl at the time of the accident. His two daughters are now aged three and one.