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5 November 2010, 10:32
An inexperienced teenage driver killed three friends when he crashed a speeding car into a lamp post early in the morning.
Jamie Burke, who had passed his driving test only 10 weeks earlier, lost control of his silver Ford Puma, which had three faulty tyres.
Burke, who was 17 at the time, had been on a night out in Watford and was returning home to Neasden in North London when he struck the old-style concrete lamp post.
The impact cut the car in half and killed his three passengers - Craig Charles, 18, of Aylesbury Road, Neasden, North London; Conrad Ryan, 17, also of Aylesbury Road, Neasden, and Jamal Campbell, 18, of North Circular Road, Neasden.
Conrad, who had been a front seat passenger, was thrown from the car. Alll three teenager werel pronounced dead at the scene. None of them had been wearing seatbelts. Burke himself escaped with only minor injuries.
Prosecutor Sally Mealing-McLeod said the crash happened in Wiggenhall Road in Watford, Herts at ten to four in the morning of 21 August 2009 just hours after the boys had received their exam results.
She said: "He was driving in excess of the 30 mile per hour speed limit and at the time there were three defective tyres on the vehicle." She said those three tyres were under inflated and the fourth - the front nearside - was over inflated. An expert estimated the speed at the time of the impact as 49 miles per hour.
The prosecutor said Burke admitted he had drunk alcohol that night, but she said readings taking after the crash showed that he would not have been over the limit at the time.
Burke, who was 19, from Cambridge Close, Neasden pleaded guilty to three counts of causing death by dangerous driving.
In a letter to Judge John Plumstead, Burke, who been on suicide watch at Bedford jail since being remanded in custody 45 days ago, said: "Conrad, Craig and Jamal were my only friends in Neasden. I think about them everyday. I wish they were still with me. They were my life. When they died I wanted to take my life." He went on: "I should have made them put seat belts on. If I had done they might still be here today. I take full responsibility. I was the driver of the car."
Dora Belford, defending, said since the crash Burke had not got into a car. "He has been withdrawn and has sleepless nights and is very depressed. This young man feels completely desolate. The only contact he has is with his family and his girlfriend. His remorse is something I do not need to repeat," she said.
Speaking to the parents of the boys who died the judge said: "There is a particular unique pain for a parent who suffers the death of a child. It is against nature and it is not what someone expects. Sudden death increases the pain for those left behind.
"No sentence I can pass can ever reflect the value of a human life."
Sentencing Burke to three and a half years he said: "You were a young an inexperienced driver. You were driving too fast - 49 in a 30 mile per hour limit." He banned him from driving for 5 years and ordered him to take an extended test before getting his licence back.
He said the real punishment for Burke was that he must live with the knowledge that he killed three people.
The judge said the boys who died came from good, respectable families. Conrad was training to be a mechanic and was a talented footballer. He said Jamal was also a good sportsman who was regarded as "funny and popular and someone who always left a smile on a face. Craig was an exceptional basketball player who had hoped to be an architect.
A statement released by the families of Jamal Campbell, Conrad Ryan and Craig Charles, said:
“We want to thank all our families and friends for the love and support we have received, we are aware of how special our sons are to us but now we understand how their passing has touched so many lives.
"We would also like to thank the police and the prosecution service for their care and support, Watford Borough Services and Watford Girls Grammar School for their understanding and support in creating a memorial site for our beloved sons at this very difficult time.
"And finally we want to pay a tribute to our sons.
"Your lives though short, Jamal, Craig and Conrad shone so brightly and touched so many people in a positive way that we thank you and we will always love and cherish your memory.”
| Craig Charles
|| Jamal Campbell
|| Conrad Ryan