Woman drove wrong way down motorway and killed headteacher in head-on smash

A woman killed a former headteacher in a head-on crash after driving the wrong way down the M57 for five miles.

Ann Marie Crook’s Renault Clio hit the vehicle of Paula Kingdon moments after she had narrowly missed an oncoming HGV, reports the Liverpool Echo.

The mum-of-two maintains she cannot explain what she was doing, but a judge today told her: “The consequences of your actions were entirely foreseeable.”

Crook, 43, shocked drivers over the course of five miles at around 9.30am on October 31, 2019 as she reached speeds of almost 100mph.

Chris Hopkins, prosecuting, told Liverpool Crown Court that passing drivers used their lights and horns in a bid to get the attention of Crook.

Crook was seen driving westbound on the East Lancashire Road as she passed through Windle Island in St Helens.

At the junction with Moorgate Road she entered the lane to turn right, only to continue straight and drive into oncoming traffic on the wrong side of the barrier separating the carriageways.

Crook then turned down the M57 slip road, almost hitting a lorry head on before joining the motorway and driving at traffic heading in the opposite direction.

The court heard the vehicle in front of Ms Kingdon’s Honda Jazz swerved to get out of Crook’s way, leaving the 64-year-old with no opportunity to avoid a crash.

Shortly before the crash, one witness said: “He could see her hands on the steering wheel. She was looking forward and appeared to be driving in a determined manner.”

Mr Hopkins said Crook’s intentions remained unclear, but added: “All of the evidence indicates this was a deliberate act and the only sensible conclusion that can be drawn is that the defendant was trying to harm herself.”

Ms Kingdon and Crook both had to be cut out of their vehicles and taken to Aintree Hospital.

Crook, of Cheviot Avenue in St Helens, spent time in a critical condition but survived.

When interviewed by police, Crook said she had no recollection of the incident and suggested she “had taken a wrong turn and panicked”.

Mr Hopkins said: “The fact that that explanation is maintained by the defendant is something which has caused great distress to family members of the victim.”

The court heard Crook could offer no reason for a collection of photographs of motorway junctions, bridges and crash scenes that were recovered from her mobile phone.

Mr Hopkins read a powerful statement on behalf of Stephen Sharples, the brother of Ms Kingdon.

He detailed the “compassion” his sister displayed and the positive impact she had on so many lives through her work in education.

Ms Kingdon was from Merseyside but lived in Sheffield and had been the headteacher of Westfield Infants School, near Chesterfield, in Derbyshire.

She was killed while she was driving home after visiting her Kirkby-based father-in-law, who she helped care for several days a week, and after having seen Liverpool FC play.

Mr Sharples said: “After a life time of devoting herself to others, Paula deserved the chance to enjoy her retirement… it is heartbreaking to me that Paula had this opportunity for a new chapter in her life taken away by the senseless actions of this stranger.”

Sarah Griffin, defending, said her client had previously been “a woman of positive good character who had worked all her life, who is clearly dedicated to her children and is someone who could regularly be found helping family, friends and neighbours”.

Ms Griffin said Crook had not driven since the crash, and planned to never drive again.

Judge Garrett Byrne addressed Ms Kingdon’s family as he told the court: “No sentence can restore Paula and no sentence can possibly compensate for her loss.”

The judge told Crook: “The manner of your driving was such that it is difficult to think of a more serious case.”

He said: “In my view the collision can be properly characterised as a deliberate act. You must have realised at the time that your driving was bound to cause someone at least serious harm, if not their death.”

A letter written to Judge Byrne by Crook ended with her claiming she had “no explanation” for her actions.

Highlighting the evidence that Crook made no attempt to avoid a crash, he concluded it was not “a case of taking a wrong turn and then panicking, it was a deliberate course of conduct”.

The judge added that, if it had been Crook’s intention to harm herself, it was “a profoundly selfish one because you were prepared to injure or kill others” in achieving that goal.

Crook admitted one count of causing death by dangerous driving. She was sentenced to four years and eight months and disqualified from driving for three years after her release.