Northern Ireland news

Natasha Carruthers 'killed in car chase after driver's drugs scam'

Natasha Carruthers

A MOTHER-OF-ONE was killed during a high-speed car chase in Fermanagh after the driver was allegedly involved in a failed drugs deal, a jury has heard.

Nathan Phair (23) from Castlebalfour Park, Lisnaskea, denies six charges relating to the crash, including causing death by dangerous driving of Natasha Carruthers on October 7 2017.

He is also accused of supplying cocaine.

Dungannon Crown Court heard yesterday that at the time of the crash, where Phair hit a tree near Derrylin, he was trying to evade two men he had allegedly "swindled" in a failed drug deal the previous evening.

The blue Vauxhall Corsa car ended up wrapped around a tree on the Lisnaskea Road. Ms Carruthers was thrown from the vehicle, and suffered catastrophic injuries. Phair was also seriously injured in the crash.

The court heard that Phair may claim he acting under duress to explain the reason for driving the way he did and says he was being chased by a black BMW car, which had "bumped ... nudged" the Corsa.

Prosecution QC David McDowell also revealed that another man, Padraig Toher (28) from Bawnboy, Co Cavan, had pleaded guilty to manslaughter and other charges and another man Andrew Waters, has admitted involvement in the alleged drug dealing with Phair.

Opening the prosecution case Mr McDowell said the car chase began as a result of a failed drugs deal the previous night.

He claimed Toher had previously bought small amounts of cocaine from Phair, but had wanted more.

Trial judge Neil Rafferty said Toher paid £440 (€500) for cocaine but the drugs were never supplied.

The lawyer said Phair had "swindled Toher out of his money".

He said Toher confronted Phair in a car at Letterbreen, smashing the windscreen and driver's window with a metal bar before it drove off.

The jury was told it would hear evidence that both cars reached speeds of up to 100mph as they travelled towards Derrylin.

Mr McDowell said that during the chase Toher's BMW struck the rear of the Corsa on at least three separate occasions, "bumping or nudging" the vehicle while Phair swerved on to the centre of the road to prevent the BMW overtaking.

The Corsa hit the tree on the opposite side of the road with speeds "in the region of 75mph" at the time save for "one instance, in excess of 80pmh and ... as much as 100mph".

"On any analysis the prosecution say it is plain that both cars were being driven dangerously during the course of the car chase and that each car caused the death of Natasha Carruthers," the lawyer said.

Mr McDowell said that when later interviewed in hospital Phair claimed he'd "panicked and took off".

The lawyer said Phair indicated Toher "nudged" his car more than 20 times, and that he lost control when the BMW attempted to overtake him, but instead hit the back right of the Corsa.

The court also heard, that when questioned about how he knew Toher and Waters, and of cheating them out of their money in a drug deal, Phair mostly gave, 'no comment' answers.

Later the court heard from an eyewitness who came across the crash scene.

The man said he had been in his home when he heard a passing car, then "a loud bang". Arriving at the scene with his wife they called emergency services.

In the back seat was a girl, screaming that her foot was trapped. In the front seat was a man, slumped over the wheel. Ms Carruthers, who was not wearing a seatbelt, had been thrown from the car and died at the scene.

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