A TRAVELLER who killed a young couple when he drove on the wrong side of the road while twice the drink-drive limit has been jailed for eight years.
Church-goers Stephen Donnelly, 26, and Mandy Gold, 21, from South Yorkshire, were “besotted” with one another and were planning to marry when they died in the tragic head-on crash.
William Wilson, 33, of Brigg, near Scunthorpe, was twice the drink-drive limit when he smashed into their car on the A14 near Naseby, Northamptonshire.
The couple were on their way home from a family wedding in Kettering where Mr Donnelly, a gifted guitarist and pianist, had been performing, when the accident happened.
Wilson, who was seen slowing down and accelerating erratically and clipping kerbs in the moments before the crash, admitted causing death by dangerous driving and drink-driving.
Judge Richard Bray said: “This is a tragic case in which the lives of two young people have been lost. No penalty can compensate for these sad deaths.
“This was a dreadful course of dangerous driving. You drove on the wrong side of the carriageway and they had no chance of avoiding instant death.”
Wilson was returning home from a travellers’ fair in Camrbidge when he caused the collision on June 27, Northampton Crown Court heard.
Prosecutor Alexandra Bull said a couple saw Mr Donnelly and Miss Gold’s Ford Ka move into the outside lane of the dual carriageway to overtake when they heard a massive bang.
“The witness saw two people trapped in the car,” she said.
“Wilson, who appeared dazed, said, ‘What have I done?’”
Gwyn Lewis, representing Wilson, said his client had no recollection of the accident. It was suggested at a previous hearing he may have been sleepwalking.
Mr Lewis added: “This will remain a jigsaw that doesn’t fit and a mystery he will never, ever understand.
“He is genuinely remorseful and has written to both bereaved families. He struggles with the consequences of his actions.
“It’s the first thing he thinks of in the morning and the last thing he thinks of at night. He unequivocally accepts responsibility.”
Mr Donnelly’s parents, Mark and Sue, shook hands with members of Wilson’s family and they comforted each other during a break in the court proceedings.
“This is a tragic case for the families whose lives were changed in an instant,” said Mr Lewis.
“They suffered a tragic loss which they have dealt with in a very dignified manner.
“No sentence, no matter what type or length, can lessen the anguish of these families.”
Wilson, who was convicted of drink driving when he was 17, was banned from driving for 10 years.
Mr Donnelly and Miss Gold had been together for about a year after meeting at Antioch Community Church in Broomhall.
Mr Donnelly, a former University of Sheffield maths student from Treeton, Rotherham, joined the church in 2007 and became part of its staff as a student pastor a year later.
Miss Gold, from Harthill, near Sheffield, who had just started a new job at a construction firm, was a student life group leader at the church and helped out with its Sunday school and women’s Bible groups.
She had also been on a number of missionary trips, including one to the Middle East and another to Poland with Mr Donnelly.
In tributes paid after the tragedy they were described as dedicated Christians who loved sharing their faith with others.
Todd Roberts, a senior pastor at the church, said: “They were a devoted couple, they were besotted with each other.
“They were definitely young and in love. It seemed like they were headed in a good direction.
“They loved the Poland trip. Both of them loved meeting other people, seeing other cultures and sharing their faith.”
Mr Roberts added: “Everybody at the church has been really shocked. We are terribly sad about our loss and just trying to grieve.
“But at the same time the great hope of the Christian faith is what the Bible tells us, our true home is heaven and that’s what all this life is preparing us for.
“We hope that we will meet again.”