AN ILLEGAL immigrant has been jailed for nine years after he killed a couple in Leeds when he ploughed into the back of their car at a speed approaching 100mph while drunk.
Eduard Mereohra smashed into the back of David and Dorothy Metcalf’s Fiat on New Year’s Day, forcing it 10ft into the air and causing it to flip end over end before coming to rest.
Mr Metcalf, 68, was killed instantly while his 65-year-old wife was found hanging out of the rear passenger window and later died.
Mereohra had been out drinking on New Year’s Eve and the following morning was collecting parcels in his car with a passenger.
Leeds Crown Court was told how several witnesses had earlier seen him driving at speed, tailgating motorists and forcing them to brake sharply when he overtook them.
Mereohra, from Moldova, who had entered the country illegally on two occasions, was driving along the Stanningley bypass in his Volvo C70 when he crashed into the back of the couple’s car.
The court was told he was twice the drink-drive limit having attended a New Year’s Eve party, later telling police he had drunk beer, whisky and champagne.
Mereohra, 26, ran away from the scene of the accident after initially approaching the wrecked vehicle, and lied in police interviews about who was behind the wheel, the court was told.
Judge Geoffrey Marson said Mereohra had “callously” tried to blame Mr Metcalf for causing the accident and had done “almost everything you could to protect yourself”.
He described the victims as “decent and hard-working”, who had “everything in their retirement to look forward to”.
He added: “You had been drinking heavily throughout the night and early in the morning that dreadful day.
“You were driving your motor car and were collecting parcels at 11 in the morning.
“You have been described as being ‘very drunk’. There then followed a prolonged, persistent and deliberate course of very bad driving at a time when you were about twice the legal limit for driving.
“I emphasise deliberate because the evidence shows that on the dual carriageway you were driving close behind a number of other vehicles, overtaking them at speed and cutting sharply in front of them causing them to brake.
“This was otherwise a clear dual carriageway and the only conclusion I can draw is that in your drunken state you had made a deliberate decision to drive aggressively in relation to other motor vehicles at that time. Your motor car was a weapon achieving a speed of 90mph-100mph in a 60mph limit.”
Mereohra, 26, from Autumn Grove, Burley, admitted two counts of causing death by dangerous driving.
After the case, Deborah Martin of solicitor Irwin Mitchell said: “This is an extremely tragic accident that led to the deaths of a much-loved couple. Eduard Mereohra’s reckless behaviour has torn this family apart by stealing David and Dorothy from their two children and grandchildren.
“It is a relief for the Metcalf family that Eduard has been jailed for 9 years and will return to his native Moldova once his sentence is served.”
Mr and Mrs Metcalf’s son and daughter Clive and Lindsay said in a statement: “We would like to thank those members of the public who stopped to help our parents. Unfortunately, the accident was so severe that there was nothing they could do to save them. What those people saw that day will no doubt live with them for the rest of their lives – more lives affected by the selfish actions of one person.
“No sentence will ever be long enough for the person who changed our lives forever on New Year’s Day 2012, when he took away our parents and our children’s grandparents, through his thoughtless, dangerous and illegal actions.
“We have been told that he is sorry, but we simply cannot accept that as a genuine apology.
“Having been deported from the UK once before he chose to return to this country illegally; he chose to drink all night and get behind the wheel of his car; he chose to drive erratically and at extremely high speed, weaving in and out of traffic; he chose to flee the scene of this horrific incident and when questioned by the police, denied being the driver of the vehicle and refused to be tested for alcohol.
“Given those circumstances, we think the only thing he is sorry about is that he was caught.
“Mum and Dad were hardworking, honest taxpayers who had planned responsibly for their retirement and should have had 20-plus more years to enjoy together.
“We were a very close family and we are lost without them. This incident has shocked the community and devastated our family. We are still struggling to come to terms with our loss.
“On top of our grief, we also have a number of questions that we need the Government and the immigration authorities to answer about how Mereohra was able to exist in the UK without detection, especially after his previous deportation.
“While we hold Mereohra responsible for his actions, we feel that our beloved Mum and Dad would still be alive today if the system had not failed by allowing him to be at liberty in the UK.”