Jacob Gaskell: teen driver who took drugs at the wheel is jailed for Wigan teacher Laura Hazeldine’s death

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Jacob Gaskell claimed he passed out while driving when he ran over and killed a popular teacher.

A drugged-up teenager who sniffed nitrous oxide at the wheel before ploughing a Land Rover into three people and killing a beloved mum has been jailed.

Jacob Gaskell, 19, had taken cocaine and cannabis before driving and inhaled laughing gas behind the wheel before the crash that killed Laura Hazeldine, 44.

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Gaskell, who had never held a driving licence, claims he passed out at the wheel due to the nitrous oxide - otherwise known as ‘nos’.

Bolton Crown Court heard how the car crashed outside Fifteens bar in Pemberton, Wigan, on Friday, 8 April.

Laura Hazeldine had been enjoying a night out with her sisterLaura Hazeldine had been enjoying a night out with her sister
Laura Hazeldine had been enjoying a night out with her sister

The car hit teacher Laura, who died from horrific injuries, while twin brothers Jack and Ben Atherton were also hurt in the horror smash.

Rachel Woods, prosecuting, said three teenage girls arranged to meet a friend in nearby Garswood that night and he arrived in a car driven by Gaskell.

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Loud music was playing, no-one wore a seat belt and a large gas cannister was being used to fill up balloons to be inhaled, the court heard.

The car sped up and Gaskell ignored a plea from the girls to slow down and asked for a balloon, which he inhaled while driving, the court was told.

The court heard the car mounted the pavement outside Fifteens and hit Laura, who was on a night out with her sister Rachel.

The scene near Fifteens in PembertonThe scene near Fifteens in Pemberton
The scene near Fifteens in Pemberton

Laura suffered horrendous lower limb injuries, facial injuries, fractures to her neck and spine, multiple rib fractures and internal injuries.

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She was rushed to Wigan Infirmary, but was pronounced dead at 11.06pm.

Ms Woods told the court: “Various witnesses who saw the aftermath of the collision were simply overwhelmed by the carnage at the scene that the defendant left behind.”

Jack Atherton, who was home from the army, suffered concussion, lacerations and bruises.

His brother Ben had a fractured spine, three small bleeds on his brain, lacerations to his kidney and other injuries.

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Tributes to Laura Hazeldine

Laura’s mother Gillian Webster spoke about the close relationship she had with her three children, who were her “world”.

She told the court Laura “inseparable” from Rachel, cared for her poorly father and touched everyone she met.

She said: “Laura’s life was working hard and being the best mum, daughter, sister, work colleague and teacher, studying for her degree in mathematics.

“Laura was always a reliable source for us all and loved by all who came into contact.

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“I will never forget the severe injury she sustained and her fight for life and I watched her sadly passed away.”

Mrs Webster told the court she rushed to the bar to find Laura badly injured and receiving CPR from a nurse.

She went to hospital and watched as medics tried in vain to save her daughter.

To Gaskell, Mrs Webster said: “Your actions have devastated our family and we will never recover from the loss. We will never get her back.

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“I hope you learn your lesson and spend time thinking and reflecting on your actions and you never put another family through the heartache and sorrow that you have put us through.”

Gaskell, of Wigan, was arrested in the early hours of the morning after the crash.

Jacob Gaskell.  Credit: GMPJacob Gaskell.  Credit: GMP
Jacob Gaskell. Credit: GMP

Blood tests showed he had used cocaine and cannabis before the crash. A metabolite of cocaine was found at a level of 466, with the maximum limit for driving being 50.

Ms Woods said nitrous oxide – laughing gas – was not detected, but it can leave the body quickly.

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Checks found Gaskell had bought the car and it was registered as being off-road.

Earlier this year he was given a suspended sentence after he’d stole a delivery van, sped away when pursued by police and crashed into a car.

He admitted a raft of driving offences including causing death by dangerous driving, causing serious injury by dangerous driving and driving without insurance.

He also admitted breaching the suspended sentence order.

‘Unnecessary loss’

Andrew Nuttall, defending, said Gaskell accepted he was responsible for what happened, expressed his remorse and knew he would receive a long sentence.

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He said: “He’s 19, not much more than a boy. It’s going to be a very, very long life potentially for him to live with what he has done.”

A psychiatrist found Gaskell had emotionally unstable personality disorder, probably caused by using illegal drugs since he was 14.

Judge Tom Gilbart said Gaskell getting behind the wheel showed “breathtaking arrogance”.

He said: “No sentence that this court imposes today can possible compensate for the tragic and totally unnecessary loss of this much-loved woman.”

Gaskell was jailed for eight years and eight months, with a further four months added for breaching the suspended sentence.

He was banned from driving for 14 years and four months.