A speedboat owner who has been jailed for six years after his date died in a crash failed to show up for his sentencing due to “cowardice”.
An international manhunt is underway to find Jack Shepherd, whose barrister Stephen Vullo QC made the comments before his client was handed the jail term at the Old Bailey in London.
The 30-year-old, originally from Exeter, Devon, had been convicted in his absence of manslaughter by gross negligence over the death of 24-year-old Charlotte Brown in December 2015.
It can now be reported that Shepherd skipped bail and failed to attend his trial, giving instructions to his legal team by phone.
Police have been unable to track him down and the convict was not in court on Friday, despite pleas from Ms Brown’s family.
Officers are now hunting for Shepherd, who has a warrant out for his arrest, and are working on leads to determine his whereabouts.
Scotland Yard’s Detective Sergeant Christopher Davis said on Friday that police have had “indications” as to his whereabouts “but it would be wrong to speculate at this time”.
He added: “We are open to the fact he may be in or out of the country.”
Ms Brown’s mother had earlier said in an emotional victim impact statement in court: “I want Jack Shepherd to know that when he’s enjoying himself with his family, I in fact am not enjoying myself and never will.
“The truth is I will be visiting Charlotte’s grave.
“Also, if it was a dreadful accident, as he has claimed, why hasn’t he explained what happened that night and at least sent his condolences.
“The fact is, if Charlotte had not met him she would still be alive today.
“The empty hole that has been left in my heart is huge and is agony.
“I will continue to feel pain, distress, emotion and anguish until I take my final breath.”
Charlotte Brown’s sister Katie said in a statement on behalf of the family: “The immense pain and anguish we feel will never pass and our grief will last a lifetime.”
She added: “We now appeal to Jack Shepherd wherever he is in the world to return and assume the responsibility of his guilt and the devastation he caused by his actions that fateful night – we appeal to Jack Shepherd’s family and friends to appeal to him and urge him to face the consequences of his actions.”
Passing sentence, judge Richard Marks QC said Shepherd had a “totally cavalier attitude to safety”.
He told the court: “I’m satisfied that at the time of the collision the boat was being driven in excess of the speed limit although I cannot be certain of the extent to which that was the case.
“What is clear beyond doubt in my judgement is the defendant should never have allowed Charlotte to drive the boat at any time.
“She had been drinking, it was dark, and he must have known the river potentially contained hazards, she had no previous boating experience at all.”
Shepherd had been trying to impress Ms Brown after meeting her on the dating website OkCupid, the court heard.
The couple took a taxi back to Shepherd’s place where they took champagne aboard the speedboat for a trip past the Houses of Parliament.
In mobile phone footage, Ms Brown could be heard shouting that they were going “so fast” as Shepherd drove at more than double the 12 knot speed limit.
On the return journey, Shepherd handed over the controls to Ms Brown, a business development consultant, who followed suit and went “full throttle”.
The speeding boat hit a submerged log and tipped over near Wandsworth Bridge, sending both occupants into the water.
Shepherd was found clinging to the hull, while Ms Brown was pulled from the water unconscious and unresponsive.
Paramedics battled in vain to save her as she was already in cardiac arrest and suffering from hypothermia.
Shepherd had bought the 14ft Fletcher Arrowflyte GTO speedboat from Gumtree to “pull women”, the court heard.
In the months before Ms Brown’s death he had entertained up to 10 women on the 1980s model, having invited them back to his houseboat in Hammersmith.
During that time, he had been caught speeding by marine police more than once and advised on the importance of wearing life jackets.
Mr Vullo said Shepherd married a childhood friend shortly after the fatal crash and now has a two-year-old child.
He added that the relationship broke down and Shepherd has struggled to gain work because of his drinking and links to the case.
From – SkyNews