A car-jacker who mowed down and killed a grandmother as he tried to flee from police was yesterday jailed indefinitely for the protection of the public and banned from the roads for 10 years.
Paul Wales was driving at high speed when he lost control of a stolen Honda Civic as supermarket worker Pamela Phinn and her daughter-in-law Kelly Laws walked along the pavement with her two grandchildren in a double buggy.
The 47-year-old drug addict ploughed into the group, killing Mrs Phinn and injuring Ms Laws and the two children, 18-month old Dean and seven-month-old Mia.
Mrs Phinn, who took the full force of the impact as she tried to push the children out of the way, was catapulted into the air, landing on the bonnet of the car which, by bizarre co-incidence, Wales had stolen from her sister.
"They had no time to take evasive action," said Geoff Mason, prosecuting at Newcastle Crown Court. "The car ploughed into them. The buggy was sent several feet into the air over the top of the car.
"Mrs Phinn was thrown up into the air - a distance of about 10 feet and fell on to the bonnet of the car and was carried on the bonnet until the speed decreased and she fell from it.
"The car continued another 30 to 40 metres along the pavement until it came to rest."
Mrs Phinn, 48, of Salisbury Street, South Shields, died instantly. Ms Laws, 28 was taken to South Tyneside District Hospital with injuries including deep cuts to her scalp and shoulder, a broken leg and fracture of the spine and a damaged spleen. Both she and her son - who suffered injuries including a broken leg and cuts to his head - were on the critical list but survived. Baby Mia escaped with minor injuries.
"The reality is because there were two children in the buggy, the elder and larger child to some extent cushioned the impact for the younger child," said Mr Mason.
The tragedy happened at 2pm on May 11 this year in Horsley Hill Road, South Shields, after Wales confronted Mrs Phinn's sister Diane Dalton as she got back into her car that was parked outside a shop.
Wales hi-jacked the vehicle after threatening Mrs Dalton with a screwdriver and grabbing the ignition key, the court was told.
He reversed away at speed and was spotted driving erractically moments later by detectives in an unmarked car and then by police officers who were responding to the reported car-jacking who then began to follow him.
Wales sped away along the heavily-built up 30mph Westoe Road reaching speeds estimated at up to 80mph, clipping the wing mirrors of two other cars before reaching a fork in the road. He lost control of the car as he tried to turn left into Horsley Hill Road, mounting the kerb at the island in the road, next to a zebra crossing and colliding with a bollard.
The car then became airborne, travelling broadside across the road, sliding across the carriageway, mounting the pavement on the opposite side of the road and hitting a boundary wall before careering into the victims.
The court was told pursuing police were some hundred feet behind Wales at the time of the crash and they were not pushing him at all.
Wales, who was arrested at the scene, had refused to take a breath-test but back calculations revealed he was just about at the drink-drive limit when the accident happened. He has never held a driving licence.
Wales, of Gorst Street, Liverpool, had pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and aggravated vehicle taking at an earlier hearing.
He has a string of previous convictions stretching back to 1970 for offences including car crime and possessing crack cocaine.
He had arrived South Shields just two days before the crash, staying with a relative after fleeing Liverpool.
He said he had taken Mrs Dalton's car motivated by his drug habit and "panicked" when he saw the police.
Paul Sloan, QC, defending, said: "When I saw the defendant in prison last Friday, without any prompting he told me he didn't believe there was any mitigation. He told me he deserved to be imprisoned having destroyed a family. In reality, the only mitigation is his guilty plea."
Passing an indeterminate sentence under laws designed to protect the public from dangerous offenders, Judge John Milford said Wales must serve at least four years and four months behind bars before he is eligible to apply for parole.
But he warned Wales - whom he accepted had shown genuine remorse - would only ever be freed when the parole board deemed it was safe to do so and even then would remain on licence for life.
Paul Wales' previous convictions
1974 - TWOC
1975 - TWOC
1977 - TWOC
1979 - TWOC
1979 - Reckless driving
1980 - Assault and handling stolen goods
1982 - Criminal damage
1983 - Criminal damage
1984 - Assault
1985 - Disqualified driving
1986 - Handling
1986 - Driving while disqualified and theft
1989 - Driving no insurance
1989 - Perverting course of justice
1993 - Shoplifting
1997 - Driving disqualified
2002 - Possession class B drug
2002 - Theft
2004 - Obstructing police powers of search
2006 - Possession crack cocaine
Page 2: Incredible coincidence led to death
Incredible coincidence led to death
It was the most incredible coincidence that led to Pamela Phinn's death.
The 48-year-old was enjoying a family day out on May 11 with her grandchildren and their mother when tragedy struck.
She was helping her daughter-in-law Kelly Laws push a double buggy containing her 18-month-old grandson Dean and seven-month-old Mia, down Horsley Hill Road in South Shields, when the family were ploughed into by a stolen Honda Civic, driven by Paul Wales.
Witnesses described how the supermarket worker, in a bid to save her young grandchildren, threw herself into the path of the stolen car as it sped towards them.
She was carried on to the other side of the road on the car's bonnet and killed instantly. Hours after learning of her tragic death, family members were dealt another blow after discovering that, in a horrific twist of fate, the car that had killed Mrs Phinn had been stolen from her sister, Diane Dalton, just minutes before.
And despite Mrs Phinn's heroic efforts, the pushchair was catapulted 20ft into the air and the children sent flying. Dean's injuries were so severe he was placed in intensive care, while Mia also suffered multiple injuries.
The pair were allowed to return to the home of their father, also called Dean, a week later.
The children's mother Kelly Laws, 28, was also hit by the car, driven by Wales, and thrown on to a verge.
Wales, originally from Liverpool, had used a screwdriver to threaten 51-year-old Diane Dalton, of Sea Way in South Shields, outside a tool hire shop on Western Approach.
She stood terrified on the pavement as he sped off.
Police who responded to the emergency call over the hijacking began to pursue the Honda after seeing it speed away from the Laygate roundabout.
They were still in pursuit nearly a mile later as the car raced along the busy Westoe Road at speeds of up to 80mph - even clipping other cars.
The drug addict finally lost control as he took a sharp bend near The Westoe pub.
The car become airborne after clipping a traffic island and veered on to the pavement where Mrs Phinn and her family were walking.
Page 3: Family 'satisfied' by sentence given to killer
Family 'satisfied' by sentence given to killer
The family of car-jacking victim Pamela Phinn last night were "satisfied" after her killer was handed an indeterminate sentence.
Speaking after the court hearing, police said they were "comforted" with the sentence handed to career criminal Paul Wales.
And they also told how Mrs Phinn's injured grandchildren, Dean and Mia, and her daughter-in-law Kelly Laws, 28, had made a good recovery,
Dean Phinn, the father of the children, and Ms Laws' former partner, spoke last night outside the family home on Berkeley Street, South Shields.
It came after he saw Wales handed an indeterminate sentence behind bars.
He said: "It was all said in the court case. There is nothing more."
Speaking on behalf of the family, DCI Tim Walker said they were satisfied, and comforted by knowing Wales will be locked up for a "substantial period of time".
The detective also paid tribute to the family's resolve in light of the shocking coincidence that saw Mrs Phinn killed by a car belonging to her sister.
"It was an extraordinary set of coincidences. When we realised the link between who the car belonged to and the victims we could hardly believe it," DCI Walker said.
Martin Hogg, who runs Hogg Chemists, on Westoe Road, described seeing the car lose control mount the pavement and hit the family. He said Mrs Phinn was thrown over the bonnet, along with the babies in the pushchair, while Ms Laws ended up going beneath the vehicle.
"The woman who died went across the bonnet, and was catapulted across the street. She went across the width of the road and ended in the bush. The two babies also went over the bonnet.
"I'm absolutely stunned anyone survived. I saw a police officer carrying the baby boy to the ambulance, and he was bleeding a lot. Blood was everywhere.
"I didn't think things looked good at that point."