A speeding driver who ‘gambled’ on an amber light at a busy junction was jailed for two years today after killing a graduate as she crossed the road.
Glenn Wall, 35, was speeding home to get to a family barbecue and failed to brake as he ‘gambled’ on getting through an amber traffic light in Timperley, Greater Manchester.
The IT manager’s Vauxhall Astra car sped across a busy junction at 36mph and ploughed into Helena Thurm, 25, as she was crossing the road after a job interview.
In a tragic twist, her parents drove past the scene of the collision and saw Wall talking to police at the roadside – but had no idea their daughter was the victim.
Today, the victim’s family accused him of using his car like a ‘killing machine’ and condemned his ‘selfish and thoughtless actions to get home quicker through traffic’.
Inquiries revealed Wall was just a mile from home when he undertook another driver before speeding through the amber light at Timperley at up to 36mph.
He been driving in a lane signposted for left hand turns only – yet he continued straight on and struck Miss Thurm, who believed it had been safe to cross.
Today, Miss Thurm’s mother Sandra, 64, said: ‘We had driven past the scene of the collision and I could see the defendant talking to the police officer and a paramedic. An hour later we were told that Helena had been hit by a car.
‘She was an innocent young woman who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. She had so much to live for and unfulfilled potential.
‘She always used to say that her dream job was to work in marketing and it is even more tragic that she was killed in her way back a job interview that day.
‘Helena was starting a new chapter in her life of happiness and promise and she has been deprived of so much. We have to pass the scene when we leave or arrive home and we can no longer bear to live there as the memories are too painful.
‘We have been forced to leave and move elsewhere. As a family we cannot express enough how much trauma this has left us in.’
At Manchester Crown Court in a statement to Wall, Miss Thurm’s brother Stephen, 30, said: ‘Driving a car is something which some people take all too frivolously and lightly even though it can ultimately be a killing machine.
The former company project manager added: ‘Your selfish and thoughtless actions to get home quicker through traffic ended up taking someone’s life.
‘You may get what I see as a very brief custodial sentence, but my family and I will have a life sentence of loss and grief. Even though you were proven to be at fault it will ultimately be all of our family who pay the much heavier price.
‘But the one you should be most repentant to is not here today, Helena, my lovely, wonderful sister. Every day you should ask for her forgiveness.’
Mr Thurm added: ‘To me Helena wasn’t just my little sister, she was also someone I lived with, worked with and constantly socialised with, and above all she was my best friend and someone who I had looked after since I was just three years old.
‘She was the person in the world who I loved the most and her death has devastated my life. It has broken me and I no longer feel the same person who I was before.
‘She was always there for me, she knew me better than anyone else in the world. The bond was irreplaceable and special, I never expected that to be broken and her life to have been ended in such a tragic way at such a young age.
‘Since she was killed a year and a half ago I have quit my job due to the grief and I find life a constant depressing struggle and the one person who would most understand my pain and grief, Helena is no longer here to help me through that.’
Wall, who was found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving, showed no emotion as Judge Patrick Field QC also banned him from driving two years which will start when he is freed from jail.
The judge told Wall: ‘The tragedy of what happened on an otherwise unremarkable summers day was palpable to all who have heard the evidence in this case.
‘I accept that when you got into your car you had no intention driving dangerously and causing harm to others road users.
‘But you were driving to get home after a day at work for a BBQ with your wife and you approached the traffic lights in the wrong lane.
‘When the lights changed to amber you sailed on without slowing. You could have stopped safely at the lights but you decided not to do so.
‘Helena Thurm was there to be seen by you but you failed to spot her and did not adjust your speed accordingly. Your intention throughout this case was to seek to prove that Helena Thurm was to blame.
‘I am urged to consider suspending a term of imprisonment but to do so would be wholly inappropriate and whilst there are factors of personal mitigation, appropriate punishment would only be achieved by immediate custody.’
The tragedy occurred on June 20, 2016 after Miss Thurm, a former pupil at Altrincham Grammar School for Girls, who graduated in public relations and digital communications at Manchester Metropolitan University, had attended an job interview at a fashion retailer in the city.
Rob Hall, prosecuting, said: ‘Afterwards she phoned her boyfriend and they chatted about how the interview had gone.
‘She had some spare time so went shopping at the Arndale Centre and got her haircut. By 5pm she was getting a tram to get back to Timperley.
‘On the way out of Manchester she phoned her father and mother to tell them how the interview went and discussed arrangements for that evening but that would turn out to be their last conversation with their daughter.’
Wall, who worked at an office 25 miles away in Rochdale, had been on his way home to Altrincham when he encountered a set of roadworks at the junction on the A56 Manchester Road at 6.08pm.
Mr Hall added: ‘A witness, travelling in the right hand lane and as he approached the traffic lights, noted that the lights were changing to amber so he stopped.
‘But this defendant who in the left hand lane did not take the same approach and he didn’t slow.
‘His response was to see that as an opportunity to get in front of the witness and he undertook his car and drove straight across the traffic lights where Helena Thurm was crossing – and where she had been waiting for some time.
‘When she saw this defendant approaching in a left only lane she would have been entitled to think he would not be travelling straight onwards.
‘But he went straight across the cross roads and drove straight through her throwing her into the air. This defendant was essentially gambling on an amber light.’
Wall denied wrongdoing and claimed he thought Miss Thurm was on her mobile phone at the time of the collision – but examinations showed the device was not being used at the time of the impact.
In mitigation his lawyer Richard Dawson said: ‘This is a tragic case and involves a feature regrettably common to this type of incident. This is not a case of sustained bad driving – but a case of flawed decision being taken and ending badly.
‘Although this may come as some surprise to the family the defendant has always expressed genuine remorse for his actions on that day. He reflects on this incident everyday and has suffered from panic attacks and flashbacks since the incident.’