Page last updated at 18:12 GMT, Wednesday, 23 April 2008 19:12 UK

'Satan' driver cleared over crash

A woman who told police Satan was driving her car after she killed a mother and daughter has been cleared of causing death by dangerous driving.

Jane Malkin, 51, and Nicole Townshend, 24, were hit by the car when it mounted the pavement in Saffron Lane, Leicester, in January last year.

The jury at Leicester Crown Court cleared Gemma Montanaro, 41, by reason of insanity.

Ms Montanoro will be made the subject of an order of the court.

The court heard before the collision, Ms Montanaro had been seen by witnesses driving on the wrong side of the road and through red lights at speeds of up to 70mph.

She should have been admitted to hospital
Dr Susan Smith, Psychiatrist

The Vauxhall Astra turned over in the collision but the defendant climbed out of the vehicle and ran from the scene, the jury heard.

Arrested a short time later, a police officer asked her if she was the driver of the car involved in the crash. The defendant replied "Yeah, sort of".

She told investigators, "Somebody had their foot on my foot and their hand on my hand - it wasn't me driving, it was Satan".

A child was also slightly injured and a second child and a woman escaped unhurt during the incident.

The jury took just 15 minutes to deliver its verdict after hearing claims she was insane at the time of the crash.

Independent review

In a police interview, she claimed she had been in the grip of schizophrenia when her car hit the pavement and killed the two women instantly.

Home treatment staff, based at Leicester Royal Infirmary, released Ms Montanaro when she sought their help the day before the collision, despite the concerns of psychiatrists, the court heard.

Giving evidence, psychiatrist Dr Susan Smith said: "I would say she was severely unwell because she was so out of touch with reality she was unable to converse with people.

"My opinion was that she should have been admitted to hospital." she said.

The NHS East Midlands Strategic Health Authority has decided to conduct an independent review.

Ms Montanaro has been ordered to return to Leicester Crown Court on 27 June to be made subject of an order of the court.

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