Nottinghamshire family’s heartbreak as drink drive killer is jailed

A drink driver who drove at three times the speed limit and killed a 68-year-old woman in a head-on collision in Eastwood, before fleeing the scene and attempting to escape responsibility, has been found guilty.

By Court Reporter
Wednesday, 23rd December 2015, 1:02 pm
Matthew Scrimshaw
Matthew Scrimshaw

Matthew Scrimshaw, 37, of Newthorpe, was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for causing the death by dangerous driving of Iris Higginson, of Brinsley, on December 9 2014.

A jury at Nottingham Crown Court returned a unanimous verdict after hearing Scrimshaw was 1.75 times over the blood alcohol limit and reached speeds of 95mph in a 30mph zone when he hit Mrs Higginson’s car head on, while travelling on the wrong side of Mansfield Road in Eastwood.

Judge Michael Stokes said: “I have been a judge for 30 years and I have had to deal with some appalling cases involving extremely dangerous driving. I can’t recall a case of a defendant who has demonstrated such an over-riding contempt for the law and for the feelings of other people.

Iris Higginson

“One week before you killed this lovely lady you were before a court for cultivating cannabis. You were smoking cannabis on the very day you killed Iris Higginson. This is one of the most arrogant cases of deliberate bad driving I have ever had to deal with.

“It is an absolute tragedy that the woman you killed was a decent, honourable woman, loved by her family and no doubt by many others, who was driving perfectly lawfully and complying with all the rules and regulations while you were doing the opposite.

“You have not shown one ounce of remorse for what you did. You sought to blame her - she who was completely innocent.

“I am going to pass one of the longest sentences I have ever passed for dangerous driving.”

Detective Sergeant James Greely

The judge spoke of Scrimshaw’s ‘absolute obduracy’ in ‘keeping the family waiting for over a year.’

Mrs Higginson’s Vauxhall Corsa was hit “almost head-on” and she died at the scene.

Scrimshaw drove his high-powered Audi TT RS, with three of his friends also in the car, at speeds of over 90mph through Brinsley and towards Eastwood after they had had been drinking at a nearby pub.

After the crash, Scrimshaw made no attempt to comfort or help Mrs Higginson or call the police.

The family and friends of Iris Higginson outside Nottingham Crown Court. From left, granddaughter Nina Spencer, daughter-in-law-Pauline Hotchkiss, daughter-in-law Tammy Beadle, granddaughter Coral Hotchkiss and friend Adele Bis.

He also abandoned a friend, Liam O’Grady, who was injured in the crash, before going to the home of an ex-girlfriend where he drank vodka and beer before he was arrested.

A breath test showed that Scrimshaw must have had at least 141 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood at the time of the crash. The legal limit is 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood.

Examination of the scene, including analysis of CCTV footage from local properties, showed Scrimshaw had been travelling as quickly as 95mph in a 30mph limit. The vehicle was also seen to be on the wrong side of the road in the seconds before the collision.

Blood found on the driver’s airbag, seat and steering wheel was found to contain DNA matching that of Scrimshaw.

Despite the evidence against him, Scrimshaw denied causing death by dangerous driving as well as other charges of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, driving while above the legal alcohol limit, failing to stop at the scene of a collision and failing to report the incident.

Following a three-day trial this week, he was found guilty.

As well as being sentenced for death by dangerous driving, he was also sentenced to two and a half years in prison for causing serious injury by dangerous driving to a passenger in his car, which will run concurrently.

In addition, he has also been banned from driving for 15 years.

The court heard that Mrs Higginson had returned from a 3,800 mile driving tour of Europe in the summer before the fatal crash.

A letter written by Mrs Higginson’s daughter-in-law, Pauline Hotchkiss, was read out in court and described the profound effect the death has had on her family.

Speaking afterwards, Pauline, 55, of Shipley View, said: “It has just affected everybody’s lives.She was wonderful - just a lovely lady. She just helped everybody. She had a big heart. We all miss her more than words can say.Seeing her family in pain is the hardest thing. Hopefully now we can have some kind of closure, but we won’t get over it.”

Speaking afterwards, Detective Sergeant James Greely, of the EMOpSS Serious Collision Investigation Unit, said: “Scrimshaw’s complete disregard for the safety of other road users extended even to his friends, one of whom suffered very serious injuries and was lucky to survive.

“He showed utter contempt not just for the law, but for everyone else who was affected by this devastating collision, which could have potentially resulted in more deaths. He fled the scene and left his friends and the victim behind, so determined was he to cover up his crime.

“Despite the overwhelming evidence against him, including the testimony of the men who had regarded him as a friend, he chose to deny the charges, forcing the family of Mrs Higginson to have to endure a trial. Thankfully, that trial has resulted in a guilty verdict.

“Our thoughts go out to Mrs Higginson’s relatives who have lost someone they loved dearly because of the arrogance of a man who thought that the laws of drink driving and speeding simply did not apply to him. They apply to us all and this should serve as a stark reminder of the consequences if they are not observed and obeyed.”