An unlicensed driver who killed three people and seriously injured a fourth after mowing them down on Boxing Day whilst driving at nearly three times the speed limit wept as he was jailed for eight years.

Driver Ricky Hepworth, 24, had drunk three or four bottles of Budweiser while at the pub with his mum and some friends when he decided to take his mum’s Volvo 360 for a spin.

Despite being unlicensed, uninsured and had been drinking, he drove to a nearby garage to buy cigarettes with friends, but on the way back he was “showing off, wheel spinning, drifting”.

The court was told he was driving at between 55-60mph in a 20mph residential area when he ploughed into two couples as they crossed the road after a night out celebrating Christmas.

Prosecutor Simon Kealey told Sheffield Crown Court, South Yorks., that Hepworth hit all four of the pedestrians – Andrew Tomlinson, 48, and his wife Faye Tomlinson, 45, along with close friends John Deere, 57, and his wife Mandy Deere, 54.

“Mr and Mrs Tomlinson and Mr Deere travelled post impact in a similar direction but Mrs Deere was carried on the vehicle for a distance,” the prosecutor said.

The court heard that Mr and Mrs Tomlinson had been together for 20 years and married for 18 – they both suffered numerous injuries including head injuries and were pronounced dead at the scene.

Mrs Deere also suffered multiple injuries and survived for a short time before dying in hospital.

Mr Deere was thrown over a 1.25 metre-high fence and landed in nearby school grounds.

Mr Kealey explained to the court that Mr Deere “remains in hospital and he remains in a serious condition”.

The court heard that after hitting the victims, Hepworth didnt’ stop – but instead drove away form the scene and dropped his passengers off before driving to a nearby boating lake, throwing the car keys in the water and leaving the car there.

He then went home, phoned the police and told them he had hit somebody by accident and directed them to the car.

Mr Kealey told the court that Hepworth “admitted his licence had been revoked, had no insurance and had smoked cannabis four hours before”.

He later pleaded guilty to three counts of death by dangerous driving and one count of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

Along with these charges, he pleaded guilty to failing to stop, driving without insurance and driving without a licence.

Mr Kealey read victim personal statements form the both the Tomlinson and Deere families while in court.

The Tomlinson family say since the accident “we have been living a nightmare we cannot escape”.

Adding: “We are constantly having to relive that night.

“We miss mum and Andrew terribly, our lives will never be the same again, all through the actions of a driver who shouldn’t have been driving.”

Some members of the Tomlinson family had been to the scene after hearing news of an incident and seen the couple on the road, covered with sheets.

In their statement, the Deere family say things “will never be the same again” all because of a “few seconds of madness”.

Speaking about Mr Deere, they say: “He remains in hospital, he has not only lost his wife of 30 years but also his two best friends.”

The court heard that due to Mr Deere’s condition he has had to be told his wife and best friends are dead several times, which has been hard on the family.

The family added that all this was “due to the selfish actions of a selfish person”.

MFL – Recorder of Sheffield Judge Julian Goose QC sentencing remarks.

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