Audi driver jailed for killing young graduate and injuring his daughter in Cross Gates high-speed horror smash

A drink-driving father killed a young woman and seriously injured his own eight-year-old daughter in a head-on horror smash while travelling of speeds possibly up to 118mph.

Jonathon Hopkinson ploughed his RS Q3 head-on into a car driven by Alice Birchall on Manston Lane in Cross Gates in June 2022. History graduate Alice was rushed to hospital but died days later after her family agonisingly were forced to switch off her life support machine.

It was estimated Hopkinson was travelling more than three times the speed limit while over the drink-drive limit, crossing over to the wrong side of the road and with his daughter in the front passenger seat.

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The 36-year-old admitted causing death by dangerous driving, causing serious injury by dangerous driving and drink-driving at Leeds Crown Court this morning. He was handed an eight-year jail sentence.

Judge Tom Bayliss KC said the smash occurred 10 days before a change in the law, which increased the maximum sentence available for causing death by dangerous driving, from 14 years’ jail to life imprisonment. Judge Bayliss said he needed to apply the laws at the time of the crash.

He added: “You made a number of choices. You chose to drive while over the prescribed limit. You chose to carry your daughter in the car. You chose to drive at grossly-excessive speeds at some considerable distance. The speeds are breathtaking. She [Alice] suffered catastrophic injuries and died two days later. It not only ends one life, but affects and blights many others.”

Hopkinson (pictured) was jailed today after killing Alice Birchall (right) in a crash in Cross gates in June 2022. (pics by WYP)Hopkinson (pictured) was jailed today after killing Alice Birchall (right) in a crash in Cross gates in June 2022. (pics by WYP)
Hopkinson (pictured) was jailed today after killing Alice Birchall (right) in a crash in Cross gates in June 2022. (pics by WYP) | WYP

The court heard that Hopkinson, of Hollyshaw Lane, Whitkirk, was behind the wheel of the high-powered grey Audi on the evening of Saturday, June 18.

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He travelled along Whitkirk Lane, Austhorpe Lane and Manston Lane in the direction of William Parkin Way and The Springs retail park just after 8.30pm. He had just left the nearby Italian restaurant Franco’s with his daughter.

Several speed cameras captured him leaving the restaurant and investigators were able to estimate his speed by the distance he covered between cameras. Despite it being 30mph zones, he was estimated to have been driving at 100mph and possibly reaching up to 118mph in some places.

He then lost control on Manston Lane and into the path of Alice Birchall’s Nissan Juke. Her car was pushed back 75 metres, which the court heard was consistent with being struck head-on by a vehicle at 100mph. CCTV footage played to the court did not capture the crash, but the screeching of the engine and the collision could be clearly heard.

Alice died after being struck by Hopkinson's Audi while she was driving in the opposite direction. (pics by WYP)Alice died after being struck by Hopkinson's Audi while she was driving in the opposite direction. (pics by WYP)
Alice died after being struck by Hopkinson's Audi while she was driving in the opposite direction. (pics by WYP) | WYP

Prosecutor Michael Smith said the first witness to come across the crash bravely pulled Hopkinson and his daughter from the Audi which had caught fire. Sadly, Alice could not be saved. The front of Alice’s Nissan was badly crushed up to the A pillar of the vehicle - the windscreen.

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Hopkinson, who was seriously injured along with his daughter, also failed a breath test. Three hours after the smash he was still found to have 114 mgs of alcohol in 100mls of his blood. The legal limit is 80mgs. He later gave a no-comment interview to police but it was accepted by the Crown that he could not remember anything from the crash.

The court heard that 22-year-old Alice lost both her parents at a young age and had been due to start her dream job, working in fine jewellery. She had left work early the day she was killed.

Speaking shortly after her death, her family issued a statement describing her as “the most caring and considerate young woman you would ever wish to meet”.

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They added: “Alice was the happiest she had ever been with her whole future in front of her.”

The smash happened on Manston Lane, Cross Gates. (pic by National World)The smash happened on Manston Lane, Cross Gates. (pic by National World)
The smash happened on Manston Lane, Cross Gates. (pic by National World) | National World

Mitigating for Hopkinson, Alistair Webster KC, said: “He understands that nothing he can say in terms of remorse or profound apologies can repair what he has done.

“Although he is appalled by the driving, he fully accepts his guilt. He simply cannot explain his driving. It was appalling driving. There’s no doubt about that.”

As well as his jail sentence, Hopkinson was told he will be banned from driving for 12 years, and must sit an extended retest to get his licence back.