A widow who caused a high-speed three-car pile-up on the M25 has been cleared of causing death by dangerous driving “by reason of insanity”.
On the evening of Saturday September 23 2017, Jill Higgins, 54, was driving at speeds of up to 127mph in her Range Rover Evoque when she crashed into a Ford C-Max and a Vauxhall Corsa driven by 60-year-old Daniel Dayalan.
Mr Dayalan died from multiple injuries and his wife Niromi Dayalan, who was his front seat passenger, suffered serious injuries.
Prosecutor Michelle Heeley has said the defendant’s car was fitted with a camera which captured the collision near Enfield, north London.
She told how Higgins’ erratic driving had forced other motorists to take evasive action to avoid near misses as she appeared “out of control” just before the crash.
The Range Rover first collided with a Ford C-Max before careering into the Corsa, forcing it into a concrete wall in the central reservation.
Ms Heeley said there was no dispute that the driving was dangerous and caused the injuries to the Dayalans.
She said the real issue was Higgins’ state of mind at the time.
Afterwards, Higgins, of Roanoke Common Lane, Warrington, Cheshire, was seen to be “behaving oddly” and was admitted to hospital under the Mental Health Act.
In a later interview with police, she told how she had experienced difficulties since her husband had died through illness.
Two psychiatrists concluded that at the time of the fatal collision, she was suffering from “an episode of mania with psychotic symptoms”.
A jury at the Old Bailey deliberated for an hour and a half to find Higgins not guilty of death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving “by reason of insanity”.
Following her acquittal, defence barrister Andrew Nuttall said Higgins was now “much better”.
He told the court: “She has been rather traumatised by what took place at that time and there is no doubt that she feels a responsibility, although she did not know what she was doing at the time.”
Handing a tearful Higgins a two-year supervision order, Judge Richard Marks QC said it was an “unusual and extremely sad case”.
He said: “It has been obviously tragic in the extreme for the Dayalan family. Of course nothing that I can say or do can undo what has happened or can bring him back. It’s just sadly a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Members of Mr Dayalan’s family reacted angrily at the judge’s remarks, with one saying: “Don’t insult us, please. He did nothing wrong. He was law-abiding within the speed limit.”
Judge Marks acknowledge the family were “greatly upset” but called for them to allow him to continue without being interrupted.
He told the defendant: “The reality of the situation here is I’m entirely satisfied from the psychiatric evidence from two independent sources.
“Both of these very experienced doctors were clear and unequivocal in the conclusion they reached. They were entirely satisfied there was no element of you dissembling them and they are trained to look at just that.
“I’m entirely satisfied you were experiencing a manic and psychotic episode. It was that that led to these events.”
He added: “I would like to record on behalf of the court the sincerest of condolences and sympathy.”