Wife who grabbed car handbrake at 60mph during a row and killed her husband is found guilty of manslaughter


A woman was facing jail today for killing her husband in a car crash during a drunken row.

Caroline Meeking, 45, and her husband Alan, 49, were on their way home to Somerset from a day's drinking in Bridport, Dorset, when they crashed into another vehicle after she grabbed the handbrake.

The jury of six men and six women at Bristol Crown Court took just three hours to find her guilty of killing him.

Jailed: Caroline Meeking pictured on October 31st as she awaited the jury's decision
Killed: Alan Meeking died in the crash during a marital row

Jailed: Caroline Meeking, pictured on October 31st as she awaited the jury's decision, was sent to prison for her part in the crash in which Alan Meeking died

Mrs Meeking showed little emotion in the glass-fronted dock despite sobbing through her evidence.

Members of both sides of the family packed the public gallery, with several crying as the foreman returned the verdict.

Recorder of Bristol Judge Neil Ford QC had warned family members to maintain their dignity.

Mrs Meeking, of Ilminster, Somerset, denied the single charge of manslaughter.

The case was adjourned for sentencing until January 6 and Mrs Meeking was released on conditional bail.

Judge Ford told Meeking: ‘The fact I am granting you bail is no indication of the sentence that you will receive.

When she was found guilty in November, Caroline Meeking left Bristol Crown Court under a blanket with family and friends

When she was found guilty in November, Caroline Meeking left Bristol Crown Court under a blanket with family and friends

‘You must prepare yourself for all options of sentencing; a custodial sentence may be inevitable in this case.’

During the two-day trial the jury heard that Mrs Meeking and her husband had between them drunk two bottles of rose wine and they later had four or five pints of lager each.

Ian Dixie, prosecuting, claimed Mrs Meeking grabbed the handbrake during a drink-fuelled argument in which Mr Meeking called his wife a ‘dirty sl**’.

But Mrs Meeking, who runs a cattery, said she did not intend to kill her husband and just wanted to get away from him as the argument had already lasted 30 minutes.

She grabbed the handbrake during a drink-fuelled argument in which Mr Meeking called his wife a 'drty sl**'.

The couple, who had been together for nine years and married for 12 months, were arguing as they drove along the unlit A3088 at Montacute, near Yeovil, on the evening of August 30 last year.

Meeking grabbed the handbrake - forcing their silver Ford Escort into a spin, and heading side on at speed into the path of a car coming in the opposite direction.

The driver of the other car, a green Rover 620, had no time to react and the two cars collided shortly before 10.30pm.

Despite wearing his seat belt, Mr Meeking suffered catastrophic injuries and was declared dead at the scene by medics. The other motorist escaped without serious injury.

Mrs Meeking told the court she had no idea the car would react in the way it did when she applied the handbrake and she would have done the same drunk or sober.

Guilty: Mrs Meeking, pictured leaving Bristol Crown Court in November, was found guilty in just three hours by the jury

Guilty: Mrs Meeking, pictured leaving Bristol Crown Court in November, was found guilty in just three hours by the jury

Blood tests carried out afterwards found that Mr Meeking, who was 5ft 9ins and weighed more than 17 stone, had a blood alcohol level of 168mg in 100ml of blood.

The legal limit is 80mg per 100ml of blood, meaning he was more than twice the limit.

Mrs Meeking said she and her husband, who worked as a vehicle panel beater, had a good marriage and shortly before his death had been talking about starting a family.

The couple met in West Drayton in west London but decided to move to Somerset for a ‘change of lifestyle’.

Fighting back tears, she said: 'I thought if I put the handbrake on, it would slow the car down and I could get out.'

But on the night of August 30 the couple got into a row that escalated after they took a wrong turn. Meeking said her husband started to insult her family and ‘just wouldn't stop’.

‘He started shouting at me, calling me 'Satnav with no batteries' and a 'total waste of space',’ she told the jury.

‘He started talking about my family and my dad. He started abusing me and saying that they are scum,’ she said.

Fighting back tears, she said: ‘I thought if I put the handbrake on, it would slow the car down and I could get out.’

Mrs Meeking said that when she grabbed the handbrake she had no wish to either hurt herself or her husband, and had no idea the car would spin out of control.

Motorists who came to the aid of the couple described Mrs Meeking as ‘hysterical’ and ‘distraught’.

She shouted repeatedly: ‘I am sorry, it's all my fault. That's my husband, it's all my fault.

‘We were having an argument and he called me a dirty sl** and I pulled up the handbrake.’

Witnesses to the accident also told police they believed Mr Meeking was driving without his headlights on.

The court heard that the speed limit on the road was 60mph and police investigators believe Mr Meeking was travelling ‘very close’ to that speed when the crash happened.

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