Drunk driver jailed for 17 years after killing baby and aunt in 140mph smash

Zackary Blades was just eight months old
-Credit: (Image: PA)


A drunk driver has been jailed after he killed a baby boy and his aunt when he was driving at more than 140mph.

Darryl Anderson, 38, was three times over the limit and driving at 141mph in an Audi Q5 when he crashed into a Peugeot 308 on the A1. As reported by the Mirror, he killed eight-month-old Zackary Blades and Karlene Warner, 30, in the smash.

Sharlona Warner, who is Zackary’s mother, was driving the Peugeot and suffered minor injuries. At Durham Crown Court last week Anderson admitted two counts of causing death by dangerous driving at a hearing.

The crash happened at around 3.15am on Friday, May 31, between Chester-le-Street and Durham. Around 30 heartbroken family members of the two victims were in court for the hearing last week. Judge Joanne Kidd today sentenced Anderson of Thorpe Hesley, South Yorkshire to 17 years and three months behind bars.

As he was sentenced, Karlene's husband demanded Anderson look at him as he read his victim impact statement, but his eyes remained fixed on the floor. He told Anderson that he had ruined his life and robbed their little girl of their mother.

Zackary's aunt Karlene Warner died alongside him
Zackary's aunt Karlene Warner died alongside him -Credit:PA

Karlene's dad and Zachary's grandad described Anderson to the court as a "wild man driving a killing machine" before adding: "No words can describe how we felt when we received that call from Shalorna. A horrifying, horrendous incident that will stay with her forever."

During sentencing the judge said 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 at 2.39am with the collision at 3.17am - he had driven around 20 miles and was driving in a “thoroughly dangerous and intoxicated manner” over the Felling Bypass.

He sent Whatsapp messages during the drive, and seconds before the fatal crash took a screenshot of his speedometer. The judge 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.

Killer Darryl Anderson
Killer Darryl Anderson -Credit:DURHAM CONSTABULARY

“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”. She said it was “inevitable” he was going to crash into a vehicle.

Zackary’s mum, Shalorna Warner, was driving the Peugeot at the time of the collision after picking her sister, Karlene, up from Newcastle Airport. She bravely stood up in court today and recalled the moment her baby, Zackary, was found by a lorry driver on the opposite side of the carriageway after his chair was flung from the car.

Zackary's mum Sharlona outside court
Zackary's mum Sharlona outside court -Credit:PA

“I heard a painful scream from the lorry driver crying: “Oh no, he’s here – your baby’s here.” I jumped over to find my baby lying on the edge of the grass of the motorway,” she said. “I knew instantly. I had to pick my dead baby up from the side of the road. I hugged him so tight, a hug I will never forget. No words will surmount the irreparable hole that has been left in my heart and in my life. Zackary was my rainbow baby – he was the light at the end of a tunnel of a very dark time for me and brought joy, happiness, and laughter into my life.

“My baby’s future, my future, our life together, has been stolen from me. I won’t ever see him look up and smile at me again. I won’t have that luxury. Instead, every second of every day I relive that night over and over again in my head, thinking what did my innocent little boy do to deserve this? And for my sister, Karlene, I just have no words. I am so sorry this happened to you. It’s hard to process something that doesn’t seem real – it just feels like I am living a nightmare.

“I will feel the ripples of this pain for the rest of my life. I don’t know if I will be able to get through this – I am scarred, I am traumatised, I am petrified to live my life. The impact of these events will amplify the hard times and taint any good moment I may possibly have, because within my heart lives Zackary and Karlene, and I will never live a normal life again without them.”

Zackary was just 8 months old
Zackary was just 8 months old -Credit:Durham Police

Addressing the judge, she said: “Your Honour, I stand before you today a broken shell of a woman and a childless mother. But this guilt is not mine to bear – this guilt is owed to the person that caused this infinite agony. I hope the pain of this weighs them down for all eternity. Nothing will bring my son and my sister back to me. The only way forward for myself is if the defendant faces the same sentence I am facing – life. The irony of it all is that I will never see my loved ones again, but he will.”

Defence lawyer Richard Dawson, for Anderson, said the case is “tragic”, with the crash having “catastrophic consequences”. He says Anderson has provided a letter to the court. He says 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.

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

Anderson had initially denied the offences, telling officers that he had picked up a hitchhiker outside the airport and had allowed him to drive his car. He claimed to have fallen asleep during the journey and only woke up at the point of the collision before he eventually pleaded guilty. He was also banned from driving for 21 and a half years.

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