Charmouth driver jailed for causing horror crash which injured three members of same family

PUBLISHED: 17:30 16 April 2018

Banned Charmouth driver John Cove.

Banned Charmouth driver John Cove.

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A banned driver has been jailed for causing horrific injuries to three members of the same family in a high-speed head-on crash.

John Cove was driving his 25-litre BMW so fast and so dangerously before the accident that other motorists predicted he was going to kill someone.

He lost control on a corner on the A 35 near Dalwood and crashed into a family group who were driving home from Dorchester to Exeter after a night out.

Cove, of Heritage Mews, Charmouth, admitted three counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

He was jailed for three years and nine months and banned from driving for seven-and-a-half years by Judge Erik Salomonsen at Exeter Crown Court.

Cove left the driver and one passenger in intensive care, a six-year-old girl needing emergency treatment at a children’s hospital, and two others with less serious injuries.

The court heard he was serving two different driving bans and tried to lie his way out of trouble by claiming someone else had been driving. Forensic tests showed he was alone in the car.

His car hit a Renault Megane in which driver Anna Szkutnik, aged 39, was taking her daughter Olivia, aged six, her partner Pavel, and her cousins Izabella and Ursula back from meeting her grown up son in Dorchester.

Anna was about to qualify as an osteopath but suffered such serious injuries she was forced to put her life on hold. All the occupants of the car suffered major psychological trauma.

Cove, aged 31, has an appalling driving record dating back to when he was banned as a teenager after being caught going 115mph in the middle of the road.

He had been banned from driving the month before the accident but had ignored the disqualification and been banned again three weeks before the crash for driving while disqualified and having no insurance.

He also had no insurance on the night of the accident on November 18, 2016, meaning all five victims are having to seek compensation through the Motor Insurance Bureau, which is funded by all other drivers.

Judge Salomonsen told Cove: “You knew this road and perhaps because familiarity breeds contempt, or because of your own arrogant view of your driving ability, you drove recklessly and caused grievous consequences.

“This was a prolonged course of bad driving. Your speed was wholly inappropriate. There were five victims and you were driving when you were doubly disqualified and without insurance.

“You should not have been driving at all. You were in flagrant breach of the disqualification and displayed a wholly selfish attitude to others, as you have done in your past life.”

Mr Adrian Chaplin, prosecuting, said Mrs Szkutnik and her four passengers were heading west towards Exeter and Cove was heading home towards Dorset when he lost control on the bend and hit their Renault Megane near Loughwood House, Dalwood.

Four other motorists came forward to describe being overtaken by him in the minutes before the crash. One described his driving as madness and another said they thought he was going to kill someone.

Even though he suffered an injured leg, he tried to tell witnesses that someone else was driving. He persisted in the lie until forensic tests disproved it. He jumped bail and went on the run when he learned of the evidence.

Another driver estimated his speed at 80mph. He was on a windy stretch of wet road with an air temperature just above zero and had already overtaken across double white lines.

He lost control on a bend, veered onto the wrong side of the road, and hit the Renault so hard it was thrown backwards. His BMW cannoned off into a ditch.

All five people in the Renault were injured. The most serious was Mrs Szkutnik, who suffered a shattered knee, broken hip, broken neck, other fractures and internal injuries.

She was in intensive care for a week and in hospital for almost a month.

She is a nurse who was on the verge of qualifying as an osteopath but spent ten months with her leg in a metal frame. She is still traumatised by being trapped in the car and not knowing how seriously injured the rest of her family were.

Her daughter Olivia Kozoil, now aged seven, suffered serious internal injuries and is still terrified every time she gets into a car.

Her cousin Izabella Szewe, aged 29, also needed treatment in intensive care.

She had broken ribs, vertebrae and collar bone and internal injuries and spent three weeks in hospital and ten weeks off work.

Mr Joss Ticehurst, defending, said Cove stayed out of trouble for eight years when he was in work and in a relationship but his life had spiralled out of control after splitting with his partner.

He plans to resume his work as a roofer when he is released from prison.

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