Dad of teen killed by drink-driver before A-Level exam brands him a "lunactic"

The heartbroken dad of a "beautiful" student who died after she was hit by a drink-driver branded him a "lunatic" as he was jailed.

Kieran McGowan, 23, struck 18-year-old Kate Whalley who tragically suffered fatal head injuries in the incident in Pool-in-Wharfedale, West Yorkshire.

It was the day before her final A-Level exam and her devastated parents spoke of how she was denied the chance to go to university.

Despite her injuries Kate was kept alive for around 30 hours at Leeds General Infirmary to allow doctors time to organise recipients for her nine organs – saving a handful of lives.

She had been hit by a black Ford Fiesta ST driven by McGowan which had struck a kerb and hurtled across the road and onto the pavement.

The incident happened on a dangerous blind bend on the A660 in Pool-in-Wharfedale at about 4.40pm on June 22, 2017.

Kate had just sat her penultimate A-level exam at Harrogate Grammar School and was about to sit the last one the next day.

McGowan of Harrogate, North Yorkshire, was jailed for four years and six months at Leeds Crown Court today.

He pleaded guilty on May 30 this year to causing death by dangerous driving.

McGowan was also charged with perverting the course of justice for lying to the police – including regarding the amount of alcohol he had drunk.

His passenger, and boss, Oliver Hurst, 32, was also charged and pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice.

Describing the events, prosecutor Michael Smith said: "Kate was 18 and in her final year of college when she died.

"She was about to finish her A levels and due to study Pyschology at Newcastle University.

"Just after 4.30pm she was walking on the pavement of Otley Road.

"The defendants were work colleagues and friends.

"They had been working in the morning before spending the rest of the afternoon in the Castle Inn, Skipton.

"McGowan had drunk five pints of alcohol and Hurst had drunk one pint of alcohol and consumed four gin and tonics.

"They had swapped cars and drove towards the airport."

Mr Smith continued: "About three hundred metres before the collision, the road goes from a 60mph to a 40mph limit. That bend can be negotiated at 40mph.

"Numerous witnesses described the driving as too fast, speeds of between 60-80mph are suggested.

"The speedometer in the car was stuck at 56mph at the time of the collision."

Fighting back tears, Kate’s devastated father Michael addressed McGowan directly in court.

He said: "I have lost my one and only child.

"Not being able to celebrate her graduation, not being able to walk her down the aisle.

"The loss of [my] daughter is unbearable. There are no words to describe the feeling.

"You added salt to our wounds by lying to the police.

"Even in death she gave, donating all her organs. My relationship with Kate was beautiful.

"It is a crying shame that he did not think of the consequences of his lunatic driving behaviour on June 22, 2017, resulting in him hitting our daughter, causing her skull to be shattered on the road.

"There is no defence for his actions."

He thanked the ambulance staff and police for their efforts in attempting to save his daughter’s life.

During a highly-emotional sentencing hearing, Kate’s mother Diane Jordan told the court she was "vibrant and full of life".

She said: "Kate was my beautiful daughter. She was a very special and confident young lady.

"She was tragically killed and denied the chance to go to university.

"The grief and pain we have suffered is hard to put into words. The loss of Kate is too hard to come to terms with.

"There is a hole in my heart that will never heal."

Defending McGowan, Andrew Dallas said he was a "hard-working" man "wracked with regret and remorse" for his actions.

He said McGowan had struggled to cope with life since the collision.

Sentencing McGowan, Judge Batty said: "Kate died the day before she completed her school education.

"She was due to embark on a degree. She had her whole life ahead of her.

"A life clearly cut short as she walked home that Thursday afternoon.

"You went to a pub where you bought a significant quantity of alcohol. In your case it was five pints of beer.

"You did this knowing you were going to be driving home."

The judge described how witnesses had seen McGowan driving the car at considerable speed.

He added: "That speed undoubtedly affected your reactions.

"To drive your car after consuming so much alcohol is wholly irresponsible.

"To drive recklessly is unforgivable."

He sentenced McGowan to four years and six months immediate imprisonment. He was also banned from driving for six years and 11 weeks.

Hurst was also imprisoned for six months for perverting the course of justice.

Speaking after the sentencing, Investigating Officer, Detective Sergeant Mat Tunney said: "McGowan has deprived a young woman of her life, who clearly had a bright future ahead of her.

"He has left in his wake, a trail of suffering and hurt for Kate’s family and friends, which will likely never leave them.

"The bravado he displayed behind the wheel and his ignorance to the danger he presented, has ultimately landed him behind bars for a significant period.

"The fact that he had been drinking in the lead up to the incident simply compounds the issue and is reflective of his complete lack of concern for those around him and anybody else.

"Likewise, his attempts to distort the truth of his actions, alongside his passenger Hurst, only underlines their disregard for those they have affected.

"We will not accept this type of behaviour on the roads of West Yorkshire and I can only hope that today’s sentence serves as a warning to others.

"If you act in this way, you risk not only ruining your own life, but devastating the lives of others, their loved ones and their communities."

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