A company director who mowed down and killed an eight-year-old girl with his car while he was in a state of severe frustration at being held up in gridlocked traffic was jailed for more than three years today.
Jon-Paul Caruana, 25, of Worsley, Salford, was said to have been ‘breaking speed barriers’ and was looking ‘animated’ at the wheel of his Vauxhall Corsa when he was picking up a friend ahead of a business meeting.
Minutes later after he collected the friend, Caruana ploughed into Emily Connor at almost 50mph as the youngster was on her way to see the Christmas lights at the Trafford Centre near Manchester.
Emily had been walking hand-in-hand with her grandmother but momentarily let go and made a vain attempt to dart across the road when Caruana sounded his horn.
Eight-year-old Emily Connor (pictured) died after she was hit by a car driven by company director Jon-Paul Caruana while he was in a state of severe frustration at being held up in gridlocked traffic in Salford, Greater Manchester
Jon-Paul Caruana (above), 25, of Worsley, Salford, ploughed into Emily Connor at almost 50mph in his Vauxhall Corsa as the youngster was on her way to see the Christmas lights at the Trafford Centre near Manchester on November 10, 2018. He was jailed for three years and four months today
She took the full force of the impact and died at the scene despite efforts to revive her.
Police discovered father-of-one Caruana, a sales director of a call centre firm, was so frustrated by the traffic congestion that he had taken a selfie at the wheel of his car while stationary and was dictating business messages to his fiancee, who was in the front passenger seat.
On the first anniversary of the tragedy, he left flowers at the scene and liaised with a priest at Emily’s church to express his sorrow over the accident.
In a statement, Emily’s father Danny Connor – who has two sons aged 16 and 13 – said he had always wanted a daughter and told police of the ‘wonderful time when they had her’.
He added: ‘At the time of Emily’s death, she was doing well at school and her inclusive nature fulfilled a crucial role within the family. She was a bridge between the family members because of her engaging personality. She was a popular girl with many friends on the estate.
‘She enjoyed singing and dancing and even when illness in the family was present she was always a shining light. Knowing the boys need me is the only thing that keeps me going. There is always a little darkness in the background when they recall Emily is no longer with them.’
At Manchester Crown Court, Caruna admitted causing death by dangerous driving and was jailed for three years and four months.
He was also banned from driving for four years and eight months.
The tragedy occurred when Emily and her grandmother Dorothy Simpson-Wheeler were waiting for a bus. Police said the Corsa had been travelling at 50mph in a 30mph zone and hit Emily at 47mph. Caruana later said he remembered seeing Emily let go of her grandmother’s hand and told police: ‘There was absolutely no chance I was going to miss her’
The tragedy occurred on November 10, 2018, when Emily and her grandmother Dorothy Simpson-Wheeler were waiting for a bus to go to the Trafford Centre.
Gavin Howie prosecuting said: ‘When one arrived, Ms Wheeler stepped onto the bus to enquire whether it was going to the Trafford Centre but the driver told her it was going in the other direction.
‘She and Emily started to cross the road and when Mrs Wheeler took Emily’s hand there was no car in sight. She looked both ways and walked quickly. She didn’t recall how far she was when she heard a loud car horn and suddenly Emily was thrust out of her hand into the air. She didn’t see the car until she looked up and saw Emily lying in the road.
‘The car swerved to the left and hit a wall and Mrs Wheeler was shocked, saying: “I was just looking at Emily”. It seems the defendant had swerved to avoid Emily but hit her then a wall running parallel to the road before striking her a second time. One witness was saying the defendant was shouting “I have killed a kid”.
‘The defendant identified himself and was required to provide a breath sample which was negative. He indicated he had smoked half a joint the previous evening but was negative for drugs.
‘At this time, Mr Caruana was driving with his partner, their four-month-old son and a friend in the Corsa. CCTV footage shows Emily appearing to let go of her grandmother’s hand in the moments before the impact.’
Mr Howie added: ‘In the moments before the collision, a witness driving her own vehicle was overtaken by the pale blue Vauxhall Corsa going very fast. The driver then went around the right-hand side of a traffic island rather than the left and there were parked cars on the left-hand side of the road.
Emily enjoyed singing and dancing and even when illness in the family was present she was always a shining light.
Emily’s father Danny Connor
‘She caught up with the car in the traffic queue and saw he had his phone in front of his face in his left hand and appeared animated. He put his phone down before turning his wheel and trying to pull out. There was a photograph taken by the defendant as he queued in traffic.’
Police said the Corsa had been travelling at 50mph in a 30mph zone and hit Emily at 47mph. Caruana later said he remembered seeing Emily let go of her grandmother’s hand and told police: ‘There was absolutely no chance I was going to miss her.’
He said he pulled his wheel left, with the car flipping over. He claimed his demeanour before the crash was ‘chilled’ and he thought he was driving at 30mph.
Mr Howie said: ‘He said he had picked up a friend outside a Tesco Express and had arranged to meet staff in the office and he had no reason to rush. He was questioned about a photograph found on his girlfriend’s phone. He accepted he had taken the picture but the car was stationary. He denied being frustrated by the traffic.
‘When he was given to opportunity to comment about a number of WhatsApp messages, he said he was dictating messages to his girlfriend to send and that he didn’t use the phone during the journey. He said he wasn’t in a rush but this defendant drove at a greatly excessive speed that caused a substantial risk of danger.’
Sentencing, Judge David Stockdale QC told Caruana: ‘Emily was a happy and healthy eight-year-old girl and it is difficult to conceive of a more innocent reason for her and her grandmother to to be out and about that day. There was nothing untoward going on. No one could have predicted what was going to happen next.
‘It seems to me instead of reducing your speed significantly you sounded your horn as a warning and you swerved to your left. However that only served to startle Emily. She had been holding her grandmother’s hand but she let go apparently attempting to run to the far side of the road and your car collided with her.
‘There is evidence that you had been driving in a particular hurry to pick up a friend who was waiting for you. A photograph was sent to your friend showing you were stuck in traffic. Your passenger sent a message saying you were “breaking speed barriers”. You were in a hurry you had been held up and you were frustrated by the time the accident had occurred.
‘But you had picked up your friend so that cause to be in a hurry had evaporated and I don’t know why you were in a hurry at the time of the accident.. But you were driving at a grossly excessive speed and there was a failure to properly keep a look out at traffic conditions ahead and a failure to react to the movement of Emily and pedestrians on the road ahead.
‘This was a piece of obviously dangerous driving in a residential built-up area that brought about the loss of a young life. It is rightly described as a tragic accident but it was an accident that was entirely avoidable. Emily’s family have suffered a great loss but I’m absolutely satisfied your remorse is sincere and genuine.
‘You have expressed it in a positive way by what you have said, what you have written and by that gestures such as your placing flowers at the scene on the accident. No sentence will compensate Emily Connor’s family for their loss. There are no winners in a case like this – only losers. No sentence I pass can turn back the clock for what has happened.’
‘This case is a classic example of the appalling consequences that can follow from a bit of driving at grossly excessive speed in a residential area with pedestrians about.’
In mitigation defence lawyer Richard Littler: ‘He has been inconsolable after this tragic accident. On the first anniversary, he returned to the scene to lay flowers and he was approached by a neighbour who embraced him because she was fully aware of the effect this had had on him.
‘He said he wanted to embrace Emily when he saw her in the road because she reminded him of his younger sister. This is an incident that will stay with him for the rest of his life. The fiance in her moving statement sums it up. She says that this is going to be a daily recurring nightmare for him. He isn’t interested in how long the sentence is; he is wiling to accept the case against him and ignored any legal advice.
‘He has wound up his company knowing that won’t be able to carry on, he has wound up his tenancy, he has cut his hair and beard in preparation of going into custody. He has found this very difficult and it will live with him for the rest of his life.’