Drink-driver who killed baby and aunt in 141mph crash jailed for over 17 years

Darryl Anderson, 38, did not help mother Shalorna Warner frantically look for her baby son after eight-month-old Zackary Blades was flung from her car, out of his crushed car seat and on to the opposite carriageway of the A1.

The horrific crash between Chester-le-Street and Durham at 3.15am on May 31 also killed Ms Warner’s sister Karlene, a flight attendant.

A smiling baby sitting on a bed
Zackary Blades (Family Handout/PA)

Durham Crown Court heard that Zackary and Karlene, 30, were killed instantly in the crash which destroyed the back of Shalorna Warner’s Peugeot 308.

Analysis of the computer in Anderson’s Audi Q5 showed he had his accelerator pedal fully to the floor and did not brake before impact.

When he took a photo on his mobile phone to show off his speed, the Peugeot could be seen in the picture, as well as a collision warning light illuminated on his dashboard.

Anderson lied and told police that a hitchhiker was behind the wheel when his powerful SUV slammed into Ms Warner’s car.

But he pleaded guilty to two counts of causing death by dangerous driving at a hearing last week.

Emma Dowling, prosecuting, said a roadside breath test showed Anderson was almost three times over the drink-drive limit.

A woman standing in an empty plane in a flight attendant's uniform
Karlene Warner worked as a flight attendant (Durham Police/PA)

He had been drinking on the plane home from a holiday he curtailed after his erratic behaviour made his wife leave separately, the court heard.

Police found an empty vodka bottle in his car.

Witnesses saw him driving dangerously in the 20 miles he had travelled from Newcastle Airport before the collision, and analysis showed he sent messages on WhatsApp.

Sharlona Warner had also been to the airport to pick up her sister from a holiday, with her son secured in the rear of her car.

At a police station, Anderson, of Clarell Walk, Thorpe Hesley, Rotherham, South Yorkshire, told officers: “I drove into the back of a car.

“Sometimes mistakes happen. But I’m not a bad person.”

Shalorna Warner made a victim impact statement, along with her father Nigel and Karlene’s partner, Kieran Hutchinson.

She recalled in vivid detail her car being spun round, seeing her sister seriously injured, then frantically looking for her son, screaming his name as she searched, after the back of her car had disintegrated in the impact.

She told the court she was in the road picking up pieces of debris, trying to find Zackary’s car seat, and that a lorry driver eventually found him on the other side of the carriageway.

She said: “I knew instantly. I had to pick my dead baby up from the side of the road. I hugged him so tight, a hug I will never forget.

“No words will surmount the irreparable hole that has been left in my heart and in my life.

“Zackary was my rainbow baby – he was the light at the end of a tunnel of a very dark time for me and brought joy, happiness and laughter into my life.

CCTV still of an Audi leaving an airport car park
Darryl Anderson leaving the car park at Newcastle Airport (Durham Police/PA)

“My baby’s future, my future, our life together, has been stolen from me.

“And for my sister Karlene, I just have no words. I am so sorry this happened to you. It’s hard to process something that doesn’t seem real – it just feels like I am living a nightmare.

“I will feel the ripples of this pain for the rest of my life. I don’t know if I will be able to get through this – I am scarred, I am traumatised, I am petrified to live my life.”

Judge Joanne Kidd jailed Anderson for 17 years and three months and banned him from driving for a further 21 and a half years after he is released.

Around 50 friends and family members of the two victims were in court for the sentencing.

Judge Kidd told Anderson he had been playing “Russian roulette” with the lives of other drivers that night and a crash was inevitable.

Mug shot of Darryl Anderson wearing a grey sweatshirt
Darryl Anderson was almost three times over the limit (Durham Police/PA)

Richard Dawson, defending, said Anderson, who was married and has a daughter, was “profoundly sorry”.

Outside court, Detective Constable Natalie Horner, of Durham Constabulary’s Collision Investigation Unit, said: “As roads policing officers, we routinely ask people not to drive above the speed limit.

“We routinely ask people not to use their mobile phones while driving. And we routinely ask people not to get behind the wheel while intoxicated.

“Darryl Anderson was doing all three of those things when he collided with Shalorna Warner’s car, killing both passengers, Karlene and baby Zackary.

“For his actions, Anderson has been sentenced to more than 17 years in prison, but it is his victims and their family who have been handed life sentences.

“It is them who will spend the rest of their lives grieving the loss of their son, their grandchild, their wife, their sister and their mother. And for what?”