Drunk driver deliberately drove into family 'again and again' after row in pub

Colin O'Keefe, 35, from Wallasey
Colin O'Keefe, 35, from Wallasey -Credit:Merseyside police

A drunken punch-up in a pub took a deadly turn when a man jumped behind the wheel of his car and deliberately ploughed into a group of people at high speed.

Colin O'Keefe, 35, from Wallasey, mounted the pavement as he aimed his car at brothers Luke, Craig and Callum Fletcher, their dad Paul and friend Jennifer Beaumont. O'Keefe had rowed with Luke at the Rose and Crown pub, on Poulton Road, Seacombe just minutes before the terrifying incident, which took place at around 2am on August 6 2023.

He first struck Jennifer Beaumont, knocking her to the ground. He then turned his car around and drove at the group a second time, pinning Luke and Paul Fletcher to a wall.

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As the group ran for cover, O'Keefe drove at them again, hitting Craig Fletcher and injuring his back and jaw.

He appeared at Liverpool Crown Court today, April 26, where he pleaded guilty to dangerous driving and four counts of attempted grievous bodily harm.

It was heard how, on August 5 last year, the Fletchers had attended the Everton FC match, and afterwards went to Yates's in Queen Square, Liverpool, to celebrate the club's 1-0 win against Sporting CP. They returned to Wallasey at 9.45pm and went to the Rose and Crown, where O'Keefe and his brother were drinking.

Prosecutor Michael Stephenson said: "It seems to be common ground that there was falling out in the pub, primarily between the defendant and Luke Fletcher, although others were drawn in."

O'Keefe suffered a cut to the scalp during the skirmish, and it was believed he was hit with a bottle. A member of staff told both parties to leave, and they continued to fight outside before breaking up. The Fletchers and Jennifer Beaumont then walked away in the direction of Broughton Road.

Mr Stephenson said: "As they walked they became aware of a car being driven in low gear at speed from the direction of the Rose and Crown towards them; estimates of the speed vary from 30 to 50mph. The car was driven up onto the pavement and certainly struck Jennifer Beaumont, causing her to fall onto her left side and sustain pain in her left leg and a swollen wrist. After getting to her feet she retreated behind a wall, although even there she was concerned the car reversed back towards her position in an attempt to get her again.

"The defendant drove up the road about 30 yards before turning and coming back; on this occasion he pinned Paul Fletcher and Luke Fletcher against a wall according to some of the witnesses. Paul Fletcher describes jumping up onto the bonnet of the car to avoid being trapped, from where he fell to the ground and skinned his knee.

"Craig Fletcher is of the view that Paul had been struck at the first attempt and this slowed his later efforts to avoid the car. He describes the car turning for a third time and chasing them as they ran to seek cover behind parked cars. He said he was struck and had pain in his lower back and jaw.

"Callum seems to have avoided the car, but describes it impacting the other four on the first occasion it mounted the pavement, turning and returning to strike Paul and Luke, then turning again and pinning them both against a wall, reversing, and pinning them a second time."

Despite the witness discrepancies - which were described as "understandable" - judge Garrett Byrne said he was satisfied O'Keefe had indeed driven his car three times at the family in an attempt to "cause grave or life-threatening injury".

Callum Ross, defending, said O'Keefe had suffered a "traumatic and difficult upbringing" and used alcohol and drugs as an "ill advised coping mechanism". He said: "He accepts his actions were inexcusable. He recognises they had the potential to be fatal.

"He has a problem with alcohol. There's an established pattern of violent behaviour when he is intoxicated. He recognises that and he thinks a period of sobriety while he services his sentence will be of use to him. He's determined to turn a horrendous incident to motivation to stay sober."

Judge Byrne said: "It appears there was some confrontation (in the pub) and you received injuries as a result of that. There was another confrontation outside the pub. No matter what went on there, nothing could have justified what you went on to do, which was truly shocking. You got behind the wheel of your car, clearly intoxicated, and you deliberately drove the car at speed onto the pavement, striking Jennifer first.

"You then turned the car around and drove it back towards the Fletchers, using the car to pin Paul and Luke against the wall. According to Craig, you turned the car a third time and chased them as they ran for cover. I'm satisfied there was a third pass.

"Fortunately, none of your victims suffered very serious injuries, although clearly it was your intention to do so.

"This was a prolonged and sustained attack using the car as a dangerous weapon. None of the injures were significant, but that was more a matter of good luck than your intention. Given the facts of this case, the use of a care and the repeated, determined way you drove at them again and again, the intention must have been to case grave and life-threatening injury."

He sentenced O'Keefe to 12 years in prison, with an extended two years on licence, adding up to a total 14 years. He also disqualified him from driving for three years.