West Yorkshire couple ran away and lied about who killed schoolgirl, 12, in M61 crash

Hannah Jones and Safeer Iqbal have both been jailed. Credit: MEN Media

A 12-year-old girl was killed by a careless driver who fled the scene with her boyfriend before lying about who was responsible.

Sana Patel was thrown from her family's car when they were crashed into by a couple from West Yorkshire on the M61 near Chorley. The schoolgirl, from Blackburn, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Hannah Jones had lost control of Safeer Iqbal's Vauxhall Corsa. The pair fled the scene on foot and called a taxi to take them back to West Yorkshire.

For months, they attempted to lie and pretend that Iqbal was the driver rather than Jones.

Preston Crown Court heard that the pair had been at a party earlier in the night in July 2019. Despite not being insured, Jones decided to drive as Iqbal had been drinking.

Inside the car, Iqbal, 31, made a Facetime call to a friend who could see that he was in the passenger seat and was carrying a bottle of vodka in one hand and the phone in the other.

Witnesses on the motorway reported seeing the car being driven erratically, both at high and low speeds.

Mr Patel, Sana's father, told police he was driving at around 68mph to 70mph and only saw the Vauxhall for the first time in the moments it came towards his car.

Prosecuting, Mark Kellett, explained that Jones had lost control while steering, with the car quickly moving from the outside lane to crash into the Patel family's Nissan Qashqai on the inside lane.

That sent the car spinning, causing it to overturn and tragically leading to Sana's death. Crash investigators said the damage caused to the vehicles indicated that Jones was driving at around 90mph at the point of impact.

Sana had not been wearing a seatbelt and was thrown out of the vehicle.

In a victim statement read to court by Mr Kellet, Sana's mum described her as a friendly and cheerful girl who was always smiling and had a zest for life.

She said the "unimaginably violent" way their daughter was taken from them has left the family suffering from sleepless nights, nightmares, and flashbacks, while it feels like the "light in their lives" has been taken away.

Mrs Patel said Safa loved art and dreamed of working as a fashion director or another creative job.

She added: "We are still dealing with losing not just our dearest daughter, but the life she would have had, the life and future she would have had enjoyed."

Days later, Jones, aged 23 at the time, was arrested at her home and Iqbal handed himself into a police station but both insisted that he was driving.

Mr Kellett said that Jones' injuries clearly showed that she had been wearing the seatbelt on the driver's side but when asked about this, she told officers: "I don't know, I've got loads. It could have been from last week."

Months later, Iqbal admitted he was not the driver in a second police interview.

Jones maintained it was not her but eventually changed her plea when a trial was due to begin.

That day, the CPS indicated it would accept a charge of causing death by careless driving rather than the more serious "by dangerous driving". Jones admitted that offence as well as changing her plea on a charge of perverting the course of justice.

The court heard that Iqbal has previous convictions for driving offences and a public order offence as well as for an offence of controlling and coercive behaviour in relation to Jones. This related to a period after the fatal crash.

Jones has one previous conviction for driving while double the alcohol limit and without insurance - that offence took place in March 2021.

Defending Jones, Richard English said she was an inexperienced driver at the time of the offence and had matured a lot since causing the child's death. He said she wanted to receive her punishment.

Defending Iqbal, Luis Canosa said his client had panicked after the collision but regretted running away and was remorseful that lying about who the driver was had delayed the family getting justice. He said the reason he had initially taken the blame was that he feared the impact on Jones' son would be greater if she was punished as she is a single mother.

Sentencing, Judge Simon Medland KC said that no sentence could ever take away from the Patel family's grief and that he was bound by the sentencing guidelines. He also heavily criticised the 18 month delay in charging Jones and Iqbal as "unjustified" and "inexcusable" and said that would be factored into the sentence.

Jones, of Stocks Bank Road in Mirfield, Yorkshire, was jailed for 18 months and banned from driving for two years.

Iqbal, of Lees Holm in Dewsbury, Yorkshire, was jailed for eight months and banned from driving for 12 months.

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