Driver used car ‘as a weapon’ to kill 22-year-old woman near takeaway, jury told

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A driver turned his Volvo into a “weapon” to kill a 22-year-old woman when he mounted a footpath outside a takeaway, a murder trial jury has heard.

Stafford Crown Court was told Stephen McHugh denies the murder of pedestrian Rebecca Steer but admits her manslaughter, after she was dragged under his car in the centre of Oswestry, Shropshire.

McHugh has admitted assault causing injury to Kyle Roberts, who was also hit by his car, but denies attempting to cause him grievous bodily harm with intent.

Opening the facts of the Crown’s case against McHugh, of Artillery Road, Park Hall, near Oswestry, prosecutor Kevin Hegarty KC said the 28-year-old was driving a gold-coloured Volvo in Willow Street at about 2.45am on Sunday October 9 last year.

Rebecca Steer death
A family photograph of Rebecca Steer (West Mercia Police/PA)

“All of a sudden, as she was crossing, the Volvo shot backwards. It narrowly missed her.”

Jurors were told Ms Steer managed to get out of the way of the car and made her way to the pavement on the opposite side of Willow Street.

Mr Hegarty added: “At that moment Mr McHugh turned the steering wheel in the direction of the people on the pavement and then he drove on to the pavement towards that group of people.

“The driver’s side of the car went on to the kerb, on to the footpath, and he proceeded to drive through the group.

“We say he used his car as a weapon – he used the power and the weight of the car to strike the group.”

McHugh’s vehicle hit three people, the court heard, including two men who were “knocked aside” by the front wing.

Mr Hegarty told the court: “Rebecca Steer was more towards the front of the car and as the car increased its speed – as it went through the group, she was dragged down under the car.

“The car then went over her – which is to say one or more of the wheels went over her. She was crushed – in effect she was left with rib fractures and catastrophic internal injuries.”

Before showing the jury CCTV clips from nearby business premises of the Volvo being reversed and then driven forwards into Ms Steer and Mr Roberts, Mr Hegarty said of McHugh: “He was heard speaking in an aggressive way.

“You may well think the way he reversed the car, which was at speed and without regard to those around him, gives a clear insight into what he was thinking and what he intended to do.

“We say that was to strike his target whoever it was. We don’t suggest Rebecca Steer was his target – she was in effect a bystander.”

The CCTV of the incident, Mr Hegarty said, showed the group outside the takeaway were given no time to escape and Ms Steer “had no chance to get away”.

McHugh, the jury heard, had been to a local football match on Saturday October 8, before visiting two pubs and a nightclub.

He was arrested on Monday October 10 in Gobowen, Shropshire, and claimed he “didn’t mean to hit anyone”.

Shortly before the alleged murder, the court heard, a man who was searching the boot of a car in Oswestry was left with a bloody nose by McHugh, in an incident the prosecution said shows he had previously “got involved in violence.”

Mr Hegarty said a front-seat passenger in McHugh’s Volvo, which was abandoned close to nearby flats, told him to calm down but he “accelerated away”.

The barrister told the jury: “This is not a collision where a pedestrian is thrown some distance by an impact. Stephen McHugh has gone from a standing start up onto the pavement and through the people there, and took Rebecca Steer with him.

“What else could he have had in mind for people in that group other than to cause, at the very least, really serious harm? If that is proved, that is murder.”

The trial continues.

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