Page last updated at 18:21 GMT, Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Family death crash father guilty

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Willow, two, Angel, four, Thor, six, and Keavy, eight, died in the river

A father has been found guilty of causing the deaths of four of his children by dangerous driving.

Nigel Gresham, 37, of Chapel Hill, Lincolnshire, was driving his modified Land Rover when it plunged into the River Witham, in September last year.

Willow, two, Angel, four, Thor, six, and Keavy, eight, died in the river.

Lincoln Crown Court heard Gresham, who denied the charges, had been driving too fast and the vehicle was not roadworthy. He will be sentenced later.

Gresham stood with head bowed and a number of people wept in the public gallery as the jury delivered its verdict.

Judge Michael Heath told the defendant he would adjourn the case until 23 January for reports.

Keavy (top left) Thor, Angel (bottom left) and Willow Gresham
It doesn't matter how angry I am, it won't bring my babies back
Sara Bolland, the children's mother

The court had earlier been told Gresham's Land Rover had several "ill-judged" modifications aimed at improving its off-road performance and that repairs to it were also "incompetent".

The car was estimated to have been travelling at between 50mph and 60mph (80km/h and 96km/h) when the incident happened.

The jury was told that moments before the crash, Gresham pulled over to allow another vehicle coming in the opposite direction to pass.

But as it mounted the verge, a bracket close to the rear axle snapped and the Land Rover turned on its side, rolling down the bank and into the water.

Gresham, his partner Sara Bolland, 31, and their three eldest children survived.

Two weeks before the crash, Gresham was forced to stop while driving the vehicle on an off-road course in Manby, Lincolnshire, because part of its under-carriage broke, the court heard.

Survival battle

Timothy Spencer QC, for the prosecution, said the deaths were "an avoidable tragedy".

"He must have known, despite what he said to police, that this was a defective vehicle.

"He must have known it was in a dangerous condition and it should not have been on the road in the state it was in," he said.

Land Rover recovered from River Witham
The Land Rover was recovered several hours after the crash
But the defence said the vehicle had passed an MOT test earlier in the year and denied the vehicle had been travelling as fast as claimed by the prosecution.

In a police statement read to the court Gresham said he blamed the oncoming driver and had fought to save his children.

In a statement given on her behalf outside court, Ms Bolland, said: "I don't think it matters what happened in the trial, I will never get to see or feel my sweet babies again.

"Nothing now will ever bring them back. It doesn't matter how angry I am, it won't bring my babies back."

Prosecution decision

The investigating officer, Sergeant Dave Kay, from Lincolnshire Police, said he hoped other motorists would heed the verdict.

"This is a time for no joy, no celebration, just sadness. I want to send a powerful message to all drivers in the United Kingdom about their responsibility when they get behind the wheel, including maintenance of that vehicle.

"You have a responsibility to yourself, to your passengers, to other road users."

The decision to prosecute Gresham was not taken lightly, said Lincolnshire Crown Prosecutor Jaswant Kaur Narwal.

Miss Narwal said: "This is a very sad case and we spent a great deal of time reviewing the evidence and considering the public interest before making the decision to prosecute.

"It was not a decision which was taken lightly, given the tragic deaths of Mr Gresham's four children and the loss he suffered as their father."

She added: "Overall we decided that the factors against were outweighed by those in favour and that a prosecution should follow."



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SEE ALSO
Rescuers' battle to save drowning family
17 Dec 08 |  Lincolnshire
Fatal car defect 'missed in MOT'
16 Dec 08 |  Lincolnshire
Father 'did everything he could'
15 Dec 08 |  Lincolnshire
Jurors see death crash Land Rover
11 Dec 08 |  Lincolnshire
Fatal plunge vehicle 'was faulty'
09 Dec 08 |  Lincolnshire
Children died in 'modified' car
08 Dec 08 |  Lincolnshire

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