Man admits driving dangerously without a licence before fatal Cardiff crash
A man who was a passenger at the time of a car crash in which three people died has admitted driving the vehicle dangerously and without a licence beforehand.
Shane Andrew Loughlin, 32, of Rumney, appeared before Cardiff Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday where he admitted two offences relating to driving on the M4 at around 10pm on March 3.
The offences are not connected to the collision which happened near the St Mellons area of Cardiff at 2.03am on March 4 and resulted in the deaths of driver Rafel Jeanne, 24, and passengers Darcy Ross and Eve Smith, both 21.
Loughlin was charged with driving the Volkswagen Tiguan dangerously on the M4, as well as driving the vehicle while disqualified, following an investigation into the fatal crash by South Wales Police.
He pleaded guilty to both offences during the hearing at Cardiff Magistrates’ Court and will appear before Cardiff Crown Court for sentencing on September 5.
Prosecuting, Sophie Pennifold told magistrates that Loughlin had been disqualified from driving for 12 months from July 2022 but was seen getting in and out of the Tiguan at Castleton Esso at about 10.40pm on March 3.
Ms Pennifold said CCTV footage showed “the defendant exiting, putting petrol in the car, walking to the kiosk to pay and driving away at 10.46pm”.
She described how Loughlin filmed himself driving as he inhaled from a balloon.
“He appears to be filming, driving the vehicle with a balloon pressed to his mouth,” she told the court.
“This leaves no hands, or one hand with a mobile phone in it, on the wheel.”
The vehicle’s fuel and seat belt lights were illuminated, with the speedometer showing speeds of up to 80-90mph. Loud music could be heard playing in the videos.
Ms Pennifold said the vehicle crossed the lines of the motorway, which other vehicles were present on.
She added: “The defendant was interviewed and stated he couldn’t recall. He viewed the CCTV and footage and accepted he was driving.”
The court heard Loughlin has 21 previous convictions, including offences of dangerous driving, and is currently the subject of a community order.
Representing Loughlin, Neil Evans asked for his client – who wore a grey jacket and shorts to the hearing and was using crutches – to be released on unconditional bail.
Elaine Farthing, chair of the bench, declined jurisdiction for the case and sent it to Cardiff Crown Court for a sentencing hearing on September 5.
She told the defendant: “Mr Loughlin, you have pleaded guilty to two offences of driving while disqualified and dangerous driving.
“This matter is so serious it cannot be dealt with in this court. It can only be dealt with in the Crown Court.
“The next hearing will be on September 5. We have granted unconditional bail.”
Driver Mr Jeanne, Ms Ross and Ms Smith died when the Volkswagen Tiguan veered off a slip road approaching a roundabout on the A48(M) and came to rest in a small copse of trees.
Loughlin and another passenger, Sophie Russon, 20, were injured but survived the crash.
The five were discovered on Monday March 6, around 46 hours after the crash happened.
They had been on a night out at The Muffler social club in Maesglas, Newport, on March 3, before travelling to the Trecco Bay Caravan Park in Porthcawl.
They left the site and were last seen at about 2am in the Pentwyn area of Cardiff.
Court documents were released to the PA news agency earlier this month relating to the prosecution of Joel Lia, 28, of Rumney, Cardiff, who had been driving the Volkswagen Tiguan an hour before the crash.
The papers revealed how Lia, who has been charged with driving without a licence or insurance in Porthcawl, told police the group had been drinking alcohol and inhaling nitrous oxide – also known as laughing gas – prior to the collision.
Lia’s case is being dealt with under the single justice procedure, where magistrates handle non-custodial criminal prosecutions in private rather than open court, at Cardiff Magistrates’ Court.
He has pleaded guilty to both charges and is due to be sentenced on August 24.
An initial inquest hearing was told that the three who died were declared dead at the scene of the crash.
The inquest was adjourned to await the findings of further histology and toxicology tests.
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