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Drink driver who killed student jailed

Tragic: Miriam Briddon
Tragic: Miriam Briddon

A THERAPIST who killed a promising student just weeks before she was awarded a first class honours degree has been jailed for five and a half years this week.

Gareth Entwistle was over the drink drive limit when he entered a left hand bend and began to skid at 67 mph.

His silver Volkswagen Golf slid into the on coming side of the road and into the path of a Fiat Punto being driven by 21 year old, a promising fashion designer.

Enwtistle’s Golf was going so fast it pushed Miss Briddon’s car 15 metres backwards. She died instantly from head injuries.

Entwistle, aged 35, of Parc yr Hydd, Ciliau Aeron, admitted causing death by careless driving while being over the drink drive limit.

As well as the jail sentence he was banned from driving for five years and will have to pass an extended driving test to get his licence back.

At Monday’s sentencing hearing at Swansea Crown Court (Oct 5) Ian Wright, prosecuting, first dealt with the issue of how much Entwistle had drunk before the crash.

He maintained he could not remember drinking at all but a paramedic at the scene of the collision, at 7pm on March 29, 2014, could smell alcohol on his breath.

Mr Wright said a doctor treating Entwistle for his injuries took a blood sample at 11.55pm, five hours later, and that returned a reading of 89 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, compared to a legal limit of 80.

Back calculations to determine how much alcohol had been in his blood at the time of the crash had returned a range of between 132 and 229, with a “most likely” figure of 181, or more than twice the limit.

Mr Wright said Entwistle’s defence team had disputed the figures, which had led to a long delay in the case.

However, Entwistle now accepted that he should be sentenced on the basis of the lowest of the back calculations, or 132 milligrams.

Mr Wright said Miss Briddon had been driving from her home in Cross Inn to spend the evening with her boyfriend Eric, a man she planned to marry, in Felinfach.

As she travelled along the A482 near Ciliau Aeron she was faced with Entwistle’s Golf driving straight at her on her side of the road.

Mr Wright said there were trees on either side of the road and she had “nowhere to go” apart from braking and maintaining a straight line.

Entwistle braked hard and tyre marks measuring 44 metres could be seen afterwards.

Mr Wright said the bend could be taken at up to 77mph. It was estimated that Entwistle had been driving at 67 mph at the point he began braking heavily.

Mr Wright said about one hour before the collision Sioned Owens had been driving home to Lampeter. She was confronted by Entwistle, who she knew, overtaking a tractor and heading straight for her and on her side of the road.  She braked and pulled to left and “narrowly” avoided a collision.

After his arrest Entwistle said he could not remember the collision at all although he could remember shopping in Lampeter.

Judge Huw Davies said he found that “hard to swallow.”

The court heard moving statements ready by Miss Briddon’s parents, Richard and Ceinwen, and her three sisters Lowri, Megan and Katie-Ann.

Mrs Briddon, then an art teacher and a head of year and a head of department, said she had taught her own daughter, who left school with five ‘A’ levels.

She described Miriam as “beautiful, innocent and talented” whose life had been taken by a man who had “driven like a madman while he was drunk.”

Mrs Briddon said the family would never be the same again.

Mr Briddon said he ran a garage business and had had to drive passed the spot where his daughter had died twice a day.

“Losing her has ripped out lives apart,” he added.

Mr Briddon said it was impossible to put his family’s loss into words. But he recalled how, two days after the tragedy, a farmer had walked into his home, sobbing and holding his cap in his hand. He stayed for 20 minutes before leaving without saying a word.

“No words were necessary,” said Mr Briddon.

He added that he had had to put up with seeing Entwistle walking around the area perfectly normally and then to see him attend court hearings wearing crutches.

Jim Davis, the barrister representing Entwistle, said he had told a probation officer that he could not begin to understand the impact the tragedy had had on Miriam’s loved ones.

“He said no words could convey how remorseful he is,” added Mr Davis.

Judge Davies said if Entwistle had been driving at 60mph, the limit for that stretch of road, he would have negotiated the bend, which he knew well, without crossing the centre white line.

“It was not simply that you went too fast, you had drunk too much.

“You say that you cannot remember anything about having been drinking that afternoon but you do remember that in Lampeter you went shopping.

“You still can’t cope with the shame of admitting what you well know, that you had been drinking somewhere before you got into that car.”

Judge Davies said the earlier incident with Sioned Owens should have served as a reminder to Entwistle that he needed to take care but it seemed to have had no effect at all.

Mariam’s family, he added, now knew what it was like to live in despair day by day.

He described the offending by Entwistle as falling into the most serious bracket.

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Dayne Stone

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