County Durham Girl 'Scarred For Life' By Bottle

A nine-year-old gymnast who was scarred for life by flying glass when a drunken yob hurled a beer bottle through a car window in County Durham asked her family if she is now ugly, a court has heard.

After drinking 15 lagers, 24-year-old Matthew McCrea threw the Budweiser bottle on to a dual-carriageway in Stanley as Abbie Keers was being driven by her grandmother.

He was jailed for eight months by a judge at Durham Crown Court after he admitted assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

Abbie was showered in glass when the front passenger window shattered and her face was covered in blood.

She was taken to hospital where she stayed overnight and underwent plastic surgery the next day as she needed stitches to her nose and both eyelids. She has been told by doctors the scars will be permanent.

Her grandmother Sandra Webb wrote a Victim Impact Statement which was read out in court, saying Abbie is in pain daily and swimming aggravates her scars.

``Abbie asked me if she is ugly because of the scar because she looked in the mirror and she said she doesn't look the same, she looks different,'' the ex-police officer's statement said.

``When I heard what she said it was as painful as the night it happened, seeing her face covered in blood, shards of glass in her face, and being unable to do anything to help her.''

It was 10.30pm on February 14 when Mrs Webb was taking her daughter Clare and Abbie's younger sister Lexi, three, to a clinic as the younger girl was unwell.

McCrea, of Tyne Vale, Stanley, was close to a pedestrian underpass by the A693 when he threw the bottle, hitting the Fiat Punto.

At a previous hearing he admitted the charge on the basis he inadvertently hit the moving vehicle.

The prosecution said it did not accept that basis of plea but was not in a position to disprove it.

Paul Newcombe, prosecuting, said there were too many variables to scientifically analyse exactly what had happened.

He told the court McCrea was barred from local premises for five years in 2013 under Derwentside's Pubwatch scheme.

Liam O'Brien, defending, said McCrea was ashamed of his actions, which were not premeditated and happened after he had been binge drinking.

``He and his family are shocked and appalled he could be responsible for the terrible injuries that were caused to this poor young girl,'' Mr O'Brien said.

``He has learned a terrible lesson, but he has learned it well.''

Judge Penny Moreland jailed him for eight months, saying an immediate custodial sentence was ``unavoidable'' because the victim was a child.

Outside court Mrs Webb said Abbie was a lot quieter since she was hurt.

``She is a lot more within herself but as a family we are trying to rally around her and build up her confidence.

``She still goes to gymnastics which is a release for her. She gets really upset and angry and that's not Abbie, she is normally such a placid little girl.

``Her character has changed.''

Abbie, a keen gymnast, competed in a local event two days after she was almost blinded.

Outside court, Sergeant Michael McGowan said they hoped that the sentence ``will bring some closure to Abbie and her family as well as allowing Matthew McCrea the opportunity to consider the consequences of his actions on that night in February.

``His mindless act has caused unnecessary distress and significant suffering to a nine-year-old girl and her family.

``I sincerely hope that the sentence given will provide them with some comfort and with the platform they need to begin to move forward with their lives.''