Killer driver Nelson Curtis had TWO previous drink-driving convictions - Lauren Danks' family talk of their despair and pain
PUBLISHED: 09:51 29 June 2017 | UPDATED: 09:51 29 June 2017
The drunk driver who drove at 124mph prior to the collision which killed Soham beauty therapist Lauren Danks, 22, on the A11 had two previous convictions for dangerous and drink-driving.
Nelson Curtis was jailed for seven years at Ipswich Crown Court on Tuesday June 27 after his Jaguar ploughed into the back of Miss Danks’ car as he tried to overtake on November 10 last year. He is likely to serve only half of the sentence – three-and-a-half years.
Curtis, 64, an electrician, of High Street, Lakenheath, had previously served two driving bans for dangerous and drink driving.
He was first convicted of dangerous driving and drink driving in 1970, and was fined and banned from getting behind the wheel for two years.
In 2003, he was again convicted of drink driving and received another two-year ban as well as another fine for being over the limit.
Curtis failed to stop at the scene of the late-night collision at Barton Mills last year and was nearly twice over the legal drink drive limit.
He had consumed 10 pints of beer at a pub in Lakenheath during a nine-hour drinking binge and could “barely walk” when he left.
The 64-year-old lied to police about the amount he had to drink, the speed he was travelling and the cause of the accident.
In victim impact statements read to the court on Tuesday during the sentencing hearing, Lauren’s parents described the devastating effect their daughter’s death had on them and her three younger brothers.
Her father, Robert Danks, described the traumatic moment he came across the accident scene after going out looking for Lauren when she didn’t come home from work. It was the beauty therapist’s first-ever evening shift at Center Parcs.
He recalled screaming “no” and being overwhelmed with “despair, pain and hurt” after being told by a policeman that she had not survived, before having to go home to give his wife Claire the shattering news.
Mrs Danks described how her life stopped when her husband arrived home in a police car and gave her the heartbreaking news that Lauren was dead.
She said: “I just sat totally numb. Devastated doesn’t come close to describing my feelings.”
Still reeling from the news, she and her husband then had to tell Lauren’s brothers – who were aged 14, nine and seven – that their sister was dead.
She said: “I had to comfort them while my world had been torn apart.”
In the two weeks following the accident, she described how she visited Lauren in the hospital mortuary and then at a chapel of rest where she was given a key so she could visit her whenever she wanted.
She said: “I would play with her hair, hold her hand and talk to her and leave her favourite things there. I would hug and kiss her not believing it was real.”
Mrs Danks spoke of spending her days with Lauren before going home at the end of the school day and then returning to the chapel of rest to say goodnight when her sons were in bed.
She would leave a rose in Lauren’s hand and a tea light because she couldn’t bear her to be alone in the dark.
Mrs Danks said Lauren’s casket was brought home before the night of her funeral so that the family could all be together and during the evening her three brothers had each spent time talking to her.
Mrs Danks spent that last night in the room with Lauren. “I didn’t want to leave her – I knew I’d hugged and kissed her for the last time,” she said.
Following the sentencing, Chief Inspector David Giles, from Suffolk Constabulary, said he believed the family would lobby the government for tougher sentencing guidelines.
He said: “The sentencing guidelines for these types of driving offences are under review by parliament.
“No length of sentence will ever bring a loved one back, but clearly appropriate punishment and justice can help to give a degree of closure for those affected.
“In addition, strong sentences are key in helping to deter others from committing such crimes.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “Drivers who kill ruin lives and must face the full force of the law. While we can never compensate for the loss of a loved one, we are clear that the punishment must fit the crime.
“Last year the Government issued a consultation that will see the maximum sentence in this area increase from 14 years to life. We are now considering the consultation responses. Any announcement will be made in due course.”