Crash father sentence 'not enough'

By Ellen Branagh,Press Association
Friday 23 January 2009 16:37

A mother whose four children were killed when the Land Rover they were in plunged into a river today said their father had not been jailed for long enough for causing their deaths.

Sara Bolland's comments came after her ex-partner Nigel Gresham was sentenced, at Lincoln Crown Court, to two years in prison.

The 37-year-old was found guilty of four counts of causing death by dangerous driving after a trial last month.

The court heard he was behind the wheel of his modified Land Rover when it careered into the River Witham, Lincolnshire, on September 16, 2007.

Members of the public rushed to help the family, but Willow, two, Angel, four, Thor, six, and eight-year-old Keavy died in the crash at Tattershall Bridge.

Gresham, his partner Ms Bolland, 31, and their three eldest children survived the crash.

The court heard the Land Rover had many "ill-judged" modifications and was described by investigators as the worst-maintained vehicle they had seen in years.

Today the children's distraught mother broke down outside the court, saying: "The prison sentence for Nigel, I don't feel it's enough for my children's lives.

"But also I am sure he is very sorry for what happened.

"Whatever happens from now on in, it's never going to bring my children back.

"Now I wish that we be left in peace to carry on and try to rebuild lives with my three children."

Sergeant Dave Kay, senior investigating officer in the case, said it had been "probably the most difficult" collision investigation he had experienced in 29 years.

He said: "I have said many many times that there are no winners in fatal crashes.

"Nobody has won out of this collision, nobody has won out of this prosecution.

"I just hope the family can start to rebuild their lives, and that includes Nigel Gresham as well."

Gresham, formerly of Chapel Hill, Lincs, bowed his head as sentence was passed in front of a packed public gallery today.

Judge Michael Heath also disqualified him from driving for five years.

He told Gresham what happened was "horrendous" and the evidence against the father-of-seven was overwhelming.

He said: "The simple fact is that your Land Rover should not have been on the road. It was... an accident waiting to happen.

"The vehicle was in appalling condition, its many and various defects were plain from the expert evidence given at trial.

"Not only would it have been blindingly obvious that driving the Land Rover in that condition would be dangerous, but you also drove it in a dangerous manner.

"You were driving that Land Rover too fast for that road.

"The inescapable fact is that the blame for this accident lies entirely with you. I have not the slightest doubt, for it is obvious, that you desperately regret what happened.

"The best expression of remorse would have been a plea of guilt.

"I find it hard to understand how you could place the lives of your partner and seven children in grave danger by allowing them to travel in such a vehicle."

During the trial last month, the court heard he was driving along Witham Bank between 50mph and 60mph when he confronted a Transit van towing a trailer of canoes in the opposite direction.

He pulled the Land Rover over to the nearside but as it mounted the verge a bracket close to the rear axle snapped, causing him to lose control and career down the bank into the river.

Crash investigators found 30 defects on the four-by-four after the crash, including a failing hand brake, worn rear brake drums and shoes, loose steering wheel and mismatched calipers.

Gresham denied the charges of causing death by dangerous driving and told police he "did everything he could" to avoid the tragedy.

He told officers he thought the vehicle had been well-maintained but today the judge told him he had gone "beyond complacency into arrogance".

The court heard Gresham's previous convictions dating back 15 years were not relevant to the case.

Prosecutor Timothy Spencer QC said a letter from Ms Bolland's father described how the tragedy had "torn (them) apart as a family".

Richard Latham QC, defending Gresham, said the couple's two eldest children, Liam and Amber, had been living with their father and any sentence imposed would cause them more suffering.

He said: "From the moment he was sat shivering on the bank of the river until now he has shown genuine distress and desperate remorse for what happened.

"It has effectively destroyed his life and his family's. He is simply devastated."