Lorry driver faces prison over horror smash which killed girl

By Court Reporter Thursday 07 February 2013 Updated: 07/02 16:57

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Priyanka Bhogal, four, was tragically killed in a multiple-car smash on the M6. (S)

A LORRY driver faces prison for causing the death of a four-year-old girl in a motorway pile-up.

Richard Booth, 64, admitted smashing into the back of slowing vehicles on the M6.

Priyanka Bhogal, from Coventry, was sleeping in the back seat when her family's Vauxhall Zafira people carrier was hit.

She was killed and seven others injured in the five-vehicle smash in the early hours of Sunday, November 27, 2011.

Her family spoke out after today's hearing (Thursday, February 7) at Warwick Crown Court. They said their lives had been left "broken and empty".

They had been heading southbound on their way home from a family party in Walsall, with Priyanka’s mother Baljit Bhogal driving because father Jaginder had been drinking.

Mrs Bhogal had stopped in traffic because of a minor accident at junction four of the M6, at Coleshill. She saw a lorry in her rear view mirror and tried to steer out of its way to the nearside.

But Booth’s artic ploughed into the back of the people carrier, where little Priyanka was strapped into her booster seat in the rearmost nearside seat of the car, which was shunted across the nearside lane into a hard shoulder crash barrier.

She was rushed to hospital but died later that morning of a serious head injury.

Booth had been travelling in excess of the 40mph limit in place at the time.

His defence had claimed he was suffering from sleep apnoea syndrome at the time and had fallen asleep at the wheel.

But after an adjournament on the second day of the trial - and after a defence expert had given evidence about his supposed condition - Booth dramatically changed his plea to guilty.

Booth, of Brockley Street, Town End Farm, Sunderland, was bailed until his sentencing and is set to appear in court on February 25.

But Judge Sylvia de Bertodano warned him: “Please do not be under any illusions.

"I am releasing you on bail; but it will inevitably be a sentence of custody, and it will inevitably be measured in years."

Priyanka's family said their lives had been shattered by her death.

"It is very difficult for us to explain how painful and how broken and empty our lives are without our loving daughter," they said in a statement released through the police.

"There will never be a day when we won't remember the happiness she gave us and the tragic events of that night.

"During her short time with us she brought happiness and touched the lives of so many people.

"All her family and friends will miss her deeply."

They added it was a miracle no-one died and described the evidence against Booth as overwhelming.

"To date he has shown little remorse or sincere regret.

"We hope that the sentencing reflects the distress and loss we feel everyday from having our angel, Priyanka, taken froadjournmentm us.

"Finally we would like to take this opportunity to thank the paramedics, the members of the public, the nurses and doctors at Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital and the other emergency services who helped during the aftermath of the horrific crash that killed our 4-year-old daughter.

"We would also like to thank West Midlands Police and the Crown Prosecution Service for their work in investigating and bringing Robert Booth to justice."

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