A woman previously jailed for hosting dog fights is back behind bars after she crashed her BMW and killed a devoted Lincolnshire couple.
Claire Parker, 56, tried to overtake a line of traffic including two cars and a double decker bus in a manoeuvre which one witness described as “insane.”
Parker’s powerful BMW M5 car was still on the wrong side of the road when she struck an oncoming Vauxhall Astra head-on, killing the driver Stephen Edwardson, 46, and his partner Heather Locking, 39.
Mr Edwardson had been due to take over the running of the family farm at Kexby, Lincs, from his father David while Ms Locking was only a few weeks away from her 40th birthday.
Parker was jailed for four and half years on Tuesday after a judge remarked that her two victims “were in the prime of their respective lives.”
It has emerged that Parker was previously sentenced to 18 weeks imprisonment in September 2009 after holding dog fights in the garage of her then Lincolnshire home.
At the time the RSPCA said it was one of the biggest cases of dog-fighting it had prosecuted.
Parker, also known as Claire Page, of Juniper Way, Gainsborough, Lincs, admitted two charges of causing death by dangerous driving as a result of the collision on December 5, 2019.
Lincoln Crown Court heard Parker was estimated to be driving her BMW at 80mph when she crossed over double white lines and moved out to pass two cars and a double decker bus.
The collision occurred on the approach to a bend and at the brow of a hill on the A156 in the village of Gate Burton between Lincoln and Gainsborough.
The couple, who had recently moved in together, were heading towards Lincoln on their way to a Christmas Market.
At the scene Parker, who was driving north on her way home from work, admitted to witnesses “It’s my fault. It’s all my fault.”
She was jailed for four and a half years and banned from driving for six years and three months. She was also ordered to pass an extended retest before she can legally drive again.
Recorder Simon King, passing sentence, told her: “These were two people in the prime of their respective lives who were immensely well thought of and loved.
“Any death is a tragedy but, in this case, it is fair to say there appears to be something particularly unfair and unjust about the deaths of Stephen and Heather in these circumstances.
“I have no doubt that if you could turn the clock back you would but that is not the way the world works.
“Immediate custody is absolutely inevitable and cannot be overlooked in this case.”
Dawn Pritchard, prosecuting, said: “The defendant was travelling northbound. The collision occurred just before the crest of a hill. It was dark and it was wet.
“The collision was a head-on collision with the defendant who was overtaking. She was in the same carriageway as Mr Edwardson and Miss Locking as they travelled in the opposite direction to her. Both died at the scene. They died from multiple neck and chest injuries.”
Miss Pritchard said that witnesses described the collision as “horrendous”.
“A near head-on collision occurred. Her [Parker’s] vehicle was on the wrong side of the road. As a result of the collision the Astra travelled backwards, left the road and collided with a tree. The BMW was completely in the wrong lane and contravening the solid white lines.”
The court was told that Parker held a clean driving licence at the time of the collision.
The couple who died were both keen Gainsborough Trinity FC supporters.
In a victim impact statement David Edwardson described his son as thoughtful, kind and considerate.
He said: “The loss of Stephen is deeply felt in every way. It has been difficult to carry on the business. This is a family farm. We have farmed at Kexby for three generations. It is difficult to see what will happen.”
Heather Locking was described as a kind woman who would go out of her way to help people.
Her cousin Nichola said: “She had finally found happiness with Stephen. He was her soul mate.”
Oliver Jarvis, for Parker, said: “She was driving home from work and she made a catastrophic error.
“This was an appalling manoeuvre which was over in a couple of seconds. The defendant is aware of the devastation she has caused. She has shown remorse and regret.”
Flying debris from the Vauxhall Astra pierced through a lower deck window of the double decker bus. Fortunately, there were no passengers on the bus at the time of the collision.
Detective Sergeant Emma Ward, Serious Collision Investigation Unit, Lincolnshire Police, said: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Stephen and Heather who both died in this collision. There are no words for such a tragic loss of life.
“To overtake on this section of road, where it is clear there are double solid white lines, is beyond belief. There is no excuse at all and the consequences of Ms Parker’s actions have been devastating.
“The length of the sentence will never reflect the sadness that two people have lost their lives by the actions of Claire Parker.”
Parker’s previous jail sentence followed an investigation by the BBC’s Panorama programme into dog fighting across the UK.
She was found guilty of jointly using her garage as a venue for dog fights, as well as attending a dog fight and jointly possessing three pitbull terrier type dogs.
Her late-husband, John Parker, of Kexby, Lincolnshire, had been due to stand trial alongside her but died before the hearing while in prison.
During the investigation RSPCA officers carried out searches across eight different counties – finding dog fighting equipment including several treadmills, training aids, veterinary kits and breaking sticks – used to prise apart the jaws of dogs during a fight.
It also led to the discovery of 35 fighting dogs, of which more than half had sustained fighting injuries and showed scars from previous bouts.
One of the biggest discoveries was of the blood-stained fighting pit, constructed in Parker’s garage, where other defendants fought their dogs.
The inspectors also found three pitbull type dogs and treadmills, used to build up dogs’ stamina and fitness, at Parker’s then home in Lincolnshire.