Drug dealer jailed over girlfriend’s death in car chase fails in legal bid to overturn conviction

23-year-old Natasha Carruthers died in the crash.

A drug dealer jailed for causing his girlfriend’s death in a high-speed car chase has failed in a legal bid to overturn his conviction. Nathan Phair, 26, crashed into a tree near Derrylin, Co Fermanagh in October 2017, killing 23-year-old passenger Natasha Carruthers. Defence lawyers argued that he acted under duress in a bid to flee from Padraig Toher, the man he had just swindled in a cocaine deal.

But the Court of Appeal ruled today that the issue was properly left to the jury in circumstances where Phair should have known he would be compelled to offend again to escape his pursuer. Lady Chief Justice Dame Siobhan Keegan said: “It was reasonably foreseeable that Toher would have reacted to being ‘ripped off’ by the appellant in a number of ways, both seeking revenge and by requiring the appellant to commit criminal acts by threats of violence.” Phair, from Castlebalfour Park in Lisnaskea, is serving an 11-year sentence for causing the young mother’s death by dangerous driving, causing grievous bodily injury to another female passenger, and supplying Class A drugs. He was behind the wheel of Ms Carruthers’ Vauxhall Corsa when it struck a tree on the Lisnaskea Road at more than 60mph., flinging her through the front windscreen. The car had been chased for 12 miles by a BMW driven by Toher before the collision. During the pursuit the vehicles reached speeds of 100mph and came into repeated contact.

Toher, 32, from Bawnboy in County Cavan, admitted causing her manslaughter and received a 12-year sentence. A day before the crash he had paid £440 for cocaine which was never supplied. In a wide-ranging appeal against his conviction by a jury, Phair contended that the trial judge wrongly admitted bad character evidence and placed a limitation on the defence of duress by circumstances. But the court identified nothing which rendered the guilty verdicts unsafe. Further suggestions that Phair acted in self-defence were also rejected. “He has, in fact, never made the case that he sought to defend himself by nudging or colliding with or crashing into the BMW driven by Toher,” Dame Siobhan pointed out. She confirmed: “Accordingly, we dismiss each ground of appeal.”

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