[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 8 June 2007, 15:32 GMT 16:32 UK
Rally driver sentenced for deaths
Gumball rally entrants
The rally was called off after the incident
A Cheshire businessman has been given a two-year suspended sentence over the deaths of an elderly couple in a car crash during the Gumball Rally.

Nicholas Morley, 30, from Bowdon, was convicted of "endangering traffic, leading to death" by a court in Struga, Macedonia, his lawyers said.

The Porsche he was driving collided with another car containing Vladimir Chepunjoski and his wife Margarita.

Morley was on remand in prison and is now set to return to the UK.

Morley's family issued a statement through their public relations firm saying they were "delighted and relieved" that he was on his way home.

'Overcrowded' prison

"We have maintained all along that Nick was involved in a tragic accident and entirely innocent of the charges brought against him," it said.

"While we are disappointed that the court has not recognised Nick's innocence, our sole focus today is to get Nick home and reunited with his family.

"In the course of time, we will consider all our options, including an appeal of this decision so we can clear Nick's name."

Morley was being held in Ohrid Prison in Macedonia, which has been criticised as "overcrowded and cramped" by watchdogs.

His co-driver Matthew McConville, from Prestwich, Greater Manchester, was in the car when it was crashed but was allowed to return to the UK.

During Morley's trial, the judge refused to accept expert witness testimony from the UK defence team.

Rally abandoned

Two witnesses claimed Morley was driving at no more than 47mph, rather than the 100mph claimed by the prosecution.

On the first day of the trial, the family of the couple killed in the crash told the court they forgave him and wanted him released, dropping their claim for 100,000 in damages.

The incident happened near Struga on 4 May, close to the Macedonian border, when the Porsche 911 collided with a Volkswagen Golf.

The 2007 Gumball Rally was from London to Istanbul and back, but was cancelled after the crash.

It is an annual 3,000-mile Europe-wide tour which attracts the rich and famous.

Hundreds of businessmen, playboys and celebrities pay 28,000 to drive supercars such as Ferraris, Porsches and Lamborghinis.




SEE ALSO
Man jailed after Gumball deaths
17 May 07 |  Manchester
Briton in Gumball death re-arrest
05 May 07 |  Manchester
Britons quizzed on Gumball death
04 May 07 |  Manchester
In Pictures: Gumball 3000 Rally starts
14 May 05 |  In Pictures

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific