A driver who mounted a kerb and drove at more than 50 miles per hour along a pavement killing two pedestrians was on Friday (18 August) jailed for eight years and nine months.
Jason Campbell, 34, who had been inhaling nitrous oxide or laughing gas was behind the wheel of a hi-performance Audi S4 when he ploughed into John Manning, 66, and Mark Varney, aged 65, who did not know each other and were walking in opposite directions.
Both men died at the scene and their families have paid tribute to them.
The family of Mr Manning of Ashburnham Road, Bedford said: “Our wonderful dad was a charitable and big-hearted man. He was a loving father, uncle, brother and friend, but mostly a very proud and doting grandpa.”
Mr Varney, lived in Kendal Gardens, Linslade, Leighton Buzzard. His family added, “As a family, we are truly devastated to have him ripped from us like this, so suddenly and so tragically.
“Mark was a much-loved father, son, brother, and was soon to be a grandfather.
“He was a kind and loving family man, who has been a huge support to his widowed mother in recent years and was so excited to meet his first grandchild in a few weeks’ time.”
After colliding with the men, the Audi Campbell was driving travelled further along the pavement and veered back into the road before crashing into a wall outside the 6th form college on Bromham Road, Bedford.
When the father of one appeared for sentence on Friday at Luton crown court, Judge Michael Simon was told at the time of the tragedy there had been an empty canister of Nitrous Oxide and party balloons in Campbell’s car.
Passing sentence on Campbell, who at the time was disqualified from driving and uninsured, the judge told him: “Mr Manning and Mr Varney would not have thought for a moment their lives would have been bought to such a sudden end when they went walking along the pavement of Bromham Road that day.
“It was evident to this court that both victims were loved and loving members of their families and their loss has significantly impacted on their families and friends.”
Campbell had denied inhaling nitrous oxide that day, but the judge said having heard evidence in court he was satisfied he had been.
He said: “In all the circumstances I am satisfied so that I am sure the only explanation for the series of events that led to the deaths was that your driving was highly impaired by inhaling nitrous oxide gas.”
Campbell of The Foundry, Bunyan Road, Kempston in Bedford pleaded guilty to two offences of causing death by dangerous driving on Saturday, 31 October 2020.
The court was told the scene of the crash was Bromham Road in Bedford shortly before 12 30pm that day.
Campbell was driving along the road in an easterly direction.
The road was subject to 30 mph speed limit, but suddenly and without warning the audi veered at speed across the road into the oncoming carriage play before mounting the kerb and striking a street sign.
Then, for a further 50 metres the car hurtled along the pavement at more than 50 miles per hour with all four of its wheels on the pavement and struck Mr Manning and Mr Mr Varney.
Leaving the pavement, the car then smashed into the nearby college wall.
Both men were were pronounced dead at the scene.
Immediately after the crash Campbell was caught on CCTV getting out of the Audi and taking with him the nitrous oxide canister and balloons which he discarded in nearby bushes, before returning to the spot where the two men lay.
He was detained at the scene by an off duty British Transport Police Inspector until other officers arrived.
Prosecutor Charles Ward-Jackson said accident investigators had established that at the time the Audi crashed into the wall it had been travelling at 52mph.
He said said when the vehicle was examined by the investigators it was further established that there were no contributory defects on the vehicle which could have which could have caused the accident.
Campbell, who the court heard had at the time just started a business buying and selling cars, went into the witness box and claimed there was a problem with the vehicle’s power steering. He said he had had the car for a few weeks and and regularly had to top up the power steering fluid.
The court was told the Audi was an automatic with just two foot pedals – an accelerator and a brake.
He claimed he had taken the vehicle out for a test drive that lunchtime after a mechanic had “fixed” a crankshaft problem and he denied he had inhaled any nitrous oxide during the drive.
Denied inhaling nitrous oxide
Campbell claimed as he drove the Audi along Bromham Road he suddenly lost control of it as it veered across the road and in panic he mistakenly pressed his foot down on the accelerator instead of the brake.
He told the court: “I have lost control and hit something and I woke up somewhere else.”
Campbell denied inhaling nitrous oxide and said the canister and balloons could have been left in the car by business associates or friends.
Asked why he had taken the empty nitrous oxide canister from the car and discarded in the buses he said:”I got rid of it because I thought I was going to get done for having it.”
Prosecutor Mr Ward-Jackson put it to Campbell that he had lost control of the car that day because he had “taken too much Nitrous Oxide” and that was why he had removed the canister and balloons from the vehicle.
Campbell said he couldn’t rember removing the canister and balloons but accepted that he had.
He was sentenced to eight years and nine months and told he would have to serve half that time in custody before being released on licence.
Campbell was told that from the moment he is released a three year driving ban will come into effect and before he gets behind the wheel of a car again he must take an extended driving test.”
Reporting by South Beds News Agency
Edited by Paul Hutchinson for the Bedford Independent