An uninsured motorist who caused the death of a pensioner through careless driving later concocted an audacious insurance scam with the potential of a pay-out for an accident which cost the life of a “much-loved” grandmother.
Billie-jo Robson, 44, from Bridlington, pulled out of a garage forecourt in her Ford Focus straight into the path of a Skoda Fabia in which 88-year-old Mary Elstob was a front-seat passenger. In the resulting crash, both vehicles were shunted onto a grass verge on the opposite side of the road.
Mrs Elstob and her daughter Susan McLachlin, 65, who was driving the Skoda, were trapped in the vehicle and had to be cut free by firefighters. Both women were taken to hospital with multiple injuries, where Mrs Elstob underwent surgery for a broken neck, rib fractures and heart trauma. She later suffered two heart attacks due to complications following surgery and died three days after the accident on the A166 in Gate Helmsley, near York.
Meanwhile, shameless Robson - who gave police a false name at the scene and claimed her vision had been obscured by a lorry parked in a layby next to the garage - made a fraudulent insurance claim, claiming it was her partner, 40-year-old supply teacher Michaela Gray, who had been the driver on the day.
Gray, who was insured to drive the car, went along with the ruse in a “misguided” show of loyalty to her long-term partner, who didn’t have a licence, York Crown Court heard.
Paul Mitchell, prosecuting, said Robson rang the insurance company just hours after the accident in April, and she and Gray kept up the con until Robson’s arrest on July 30.
Robson, of Wayside Road, claimed she thought the accident was only a minor-injury crash, but her story unravelled when police arrested her at her home and found the sham insurance-claim documents, along with drugs including amphetamine and cannabis. She was charged with driving without insurance, fraud and perverting the course of justice, as well as possessing amphetamine with intent to supply and possession of cannabis and diazepam following the police search three months after the accident.
Gray was charged with fraud and perverting the course of justice. Both women admitted the offences and appeared for sentence on Thursday.
Mr Mitchell said that just before the accident at 11.20am on April 9 last year, Robson, who owned a roadside fast-food café, tried to edge out onto the carriageway, but then reversed back into the forecourt due to the parked lorry making it difficult for her to see oncoming traffic. She did this twice before make her third, and fateful, attempt to pull out.
He said Mrs McLachlin’s injuries were serious but not life-threatening. Her mother, from Methley near Leeds, died from blood clots, pneumonia and heart failure stemming from injuries suffered in the crash.
“Robson was spoken to at the scene by police and gave her name as Michaela Gray,” said Mr Mitchell.
In two subsequent police interviews, Robson maintained the ruse but was finally rumbled when her DNA was found on the car.
The court heard that Robson had a previous conviction for driving while disqualified and uninsured, as well as heroin possession and being drunk and disorderly. She also had a caution for growing cannabis.
Defence barrister Taryn Turner said Robson had had drink and drug problems but was not under the influence of either at the time of the accident.
Mark Foley, for Gray - also of Wayside Road - said the modern-languages teacher’s career “now lays in tatters” and she was likely to lose her home.
Judge Paul Batty QC described Mrs Elstob as a “much-loved lady” who had led a “great” life.
He jailed Robson for two years and 11 months, and gave her a two-year driving ban.
Gray was given an eight-month jail sentence, suspended for 18 months. She was also ordered to carry out 150 hours’ unpaid work and take part in a 20-day rehabilitation programme.