Drink-driver took chilling photo before killing baby and aunt in 'nightmare' 141mph crash

Zackary Blades was tragically killed in the crash
-Credit: (Image: Durham Police/PA Wire)


A killer drink driver has been sentenced after he admitted killing a baby and his aunt moments after hitting speeds of 141mph. Darryl Jason Anderson was behind the wheel of an Audi Q5 when he smashed into a Peugeot being driven by Shalorna Warner.

Her baby son, eight-month-old Zackary Blades, and his 30-year-old auntie, Karlene Warner, were in the vehicle and killed instantly in the horror smash. Sickeningly, Anderson took a picture of his dashboard moments before the crash which showed that he was travelling at 141mph.

A warning of an obstacle could be seen on the display, which was the family's car he was about to hit. Anderson, who was almost three times over the drink-drive limit, smashed into the vehicle on the A1(M) in the early hours of May 31 this year.

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Anderson, of Clarell Walk, Thorpe Hesley, Rotherham, appeared at Durham Crown Court on Tuesday, July 9, to be sentenced for two counts of causing death by dangerous driving. He pleaded guilty to the charges last week.

Karlene was due to start a career as a cabin crew member and had flown into Newcastle Airport before being picked up by Shalorna. That same night, Anderson had flown into the same airport from Antalya after behaving "erratically" with his wife and returning to the UK on his own, ChronicleLive reports.

Darryl Anderson
Darryl Anderson -Credit:Durham Police/PA Wire

Emma Dowling, prosecuting, said that when Karlene was picked up, the family were on their way home to County Durham through Newcastle city centre, and followed a diversion due to A1 works. They later joined the A1(M) near to Washington services.

Ms Dowling said that around the same time, 38-year-old Anderson had flown into Newcastle from Antalya, Turkey, after “acting erratically” on holiday with his wife. The court heard that he had been drinking alcohol on the flight and was drunk, but still took the decision to pick up his keys to his Audi from the front desk of the airport.

Ms Dowling said staff thought Anderson "smelled of alcohol but didn’t seem drunk”. He also told staff his wife had left him but that he was “going to get another one”.

He then drove off from the airport in his Audi and CCTV showed Shalorna’s Peugeot and Anderson’s Audi crossing the Tyne Bridge minutes apart. Anderson then made his way to the A194 and overshot a junction.

Karlene Warner was killed when the car she was travelling in was hit by Darryl Anderson's Audi Q5
Karlene Warner was killed when the car she was travelling in was hit by Darryl Anderson's Audi Q5 -Credit:Durham Police/PA Wire

Ms Dowling said that Anderson was "taking photographs of his dashboard while speeding at 141mph". She continued: “After the picture was taken, the defendant collided with the Peugeot. The collision was catastrophic, killing [Zackary and Karlene] instantly."

The Pergeot was destroyed in the crash with the back of the vehicle being completely crumpled in. A passing lorry driver saw a distressed Shalorna in the middle of the road and pulled over as Shalorna told him she “couldn’t find her son”.

The lorry driver tragically found Zachary's lifeless body on the hard shoulder after the baby had been thrown from the car due to the high-speed impact. Both Zachary and Karlene died at the scene.

Shalorna, from Northern Ireland, sustained minor injuries before being taken to hospital for treatment. Anderson’s Audi had rolled to the hard shoulder and debris was found in a nearby verge, including an empty bottle of vodka. When police arrived Anderson said he was “sorry” for crashing into the Peugeot. He was breath tested and was found to be over the alcohol limit.

Darryl Anderson being given a roadside breathalyser test for alcohol, which he failed
Darryl Anderson being given a roadside breathalyser test for alcohol, which he failed -Credit:Durham Police/PA Wire

The court heard that tattooed Anderson appeared uninjured, but was taken to hospital where he refused a blood test claiming to have a fear of needles. He then provided a urine sample which confirmed he was over the drink-drive limit.

Ms Dowling told the court that despite the horrific crash, Anderson seemed “very talkative” and was even “flirting with a nurse” at one point in hospital. In a police interview, Anderson came up with a false story saying he picked up a hitchhiker who he then let drive.

When asked why there was no passenger seatbelt in place, he told officers the hitchhiker had “wrapped it around himself”. Anderson later dropped the fake story and went on to plead guilty at court.

Shalorna and Karlene's father, Nigel Warner, described Anderson as a “wild man driving a killing machine”. He added: “No words can describe how we felt when we received that call from Shalorna. A horrifying, horrendous incident that will stay with her forever.”

In a second victim statement, Karlene’s husband, Kieran, demanded Anderson to look at him from the dock. Anderson’s eyes remained fixed to the floor, with Karlene’s husband shouting “coward” at him.

Zackary's mother, Shalorna, described the unimaginable distress she felt as she looked for her baby among the wreckage as those in the public gallery broke down in tears. She told the court she had to pick her son's body up from the ground and that the deaths left an "irreparable hole in my heart".

Sharlona Warner, the mother of eight-month-old Zackary Blades speaks to the media alongside Detective Constable Natalie Horner
Sharlona Warner, the mother of eight-month-old Zackary Blades speaks to the media alongside Detective Constable Natalie Horner -Credit:Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

The court heard Anderson had 10 previous convictions for 12 offences, including drink driving, assaulting an emergency worker, and battery. He was also stopped in Sheffield around a week before the fatal crash and warned about his driving.

Richard Dawson, mitigating, said the case was “tragic”, with the crash having “catastrophic consequences”. He said Anderson has a young daughter who is the “primary focus of his life” and knows he will be absent from her life for a long period of time.

He said: "By his guilty pleas…he accepts he drove dangerously and caused the deaths of both Zackary and Karlene. No explanation can be provided by him how this terrible accident occurred."

He said that in all likelihood "the combination of speed, intoxication and distraction of mobile phone” caused the accident. He said Anderson was “not concentrating” and that the defendant is “profoundly sorry” and wants to apologise. He added that “ultimately common sense prevailed” and Anderson decided to plead guilty to try and bring “closure” to the family as soon as possible.

Sentencing Anderson to 17 years and three months behind bars, Judge Jo Kidd said of the family's statements: "They have given me an insight into the precious place they held in your hearts.” She said Karlene was an “exceptional” person and mother, who was excited for her future.

The judge told the court Anderson landed at Newcastle Airport and had drunk a “significant” amount of alcohol on the flight, but picked up his car and intended to drive it back to Yorkshire, a journey of around 200 miles. He began driving in a “thoroughly dangerous and intoxicated manner” over the Felling Bypass.

He also sent WhatsApp messages during the drive, and seconds before the fatal crash took a screenshot of his speedometer. Judge Kidd said: "It is a chilling image. At the centre of the console is a warning sign, displaying a warning of impending obstacle. That obstacle was the Peugeot driven by Shalorna.

"I do not know why you took that picture…whatever the situation your attention had been further distracted from your driving. Your accelerator pedal was fully depressed at time of impact. Driving at 141mph. The photos of the scene are the stuff of nightmares.

"You played Russian roulette with every man, woman and child on that journey.” Anderson was banned from driving for 21 and a half years and he must sit an extended re-test if he wants his licence back.