Hawick’s teenager’s ‘ridiculous’ speeding caused death of friend in A698 crash near Timpendean

Aaron Murphy outside court.
Aaron Murphy outside court.

A teenage motorist’s dangerous driving led to the death of a friend after he lost control of his car because of speeding described as ridiculous by a witness.

Aaron Murphy overtook a line of traffic in unsafe conditions before his Seat Ibiza mounted a verge, hit a road sign and rolled into a field.

His front-seat passenger and former schoolmate Dale Whillans was so seriously injured that he died after the crash on the A698 Hawick-Jedburgh road, near Timpendean.

First-time offender Murphy was 18 at the time of the accident which claimed the life of his friend Dale, also 18.

Murphy’s defence counsel, Ronnie Renucci, told the High Court in Edinburgh on Wednesday: “I am instructed on behalf of Aaron Murphy to apologise on his behalf at the first public opportunity that he has had.

“I am instructed to express his deep regret and sorrow at the death of someone who was his friend, Dale Whillans.”

The judge, Lady Wolffe, said: “This is indeed a very tragic case.”

Murphy, now 19, of Target House, Braid Road, Hawick, admitted causing the death of Mr Whillans by driving dangerously on April 6 last year.

He drove at excessive speed and crossed onto the other side of the road when it was unsafe, losing control of a car he had only acquired 12 days earlier.

Advocate depute Keith O’Mahony told the court that Murphy had performed an overtaking manoeuvre to pass several vehicles at a location where it was unsafe to do so.

The prosecutor said: “The accused and the deceased were well known to each other. They had the same group of friends and had been schoolmates at both primary and secondary school.”

They and others were driving in two cars from Hawick to Berwick. After passing through Denholm, they got held up by a queue of four vehicles.

They reached the Timpendean straight, but oncoming traffic initially ruled out overtaking. However, once the last of the oncoming vehicles had passed, the first of their cars pulled out to pass the traffic ahead, with Murphy following in his Seat.

Mr O’Mahony said the noise of the vehicles accelerating caught the attention of witnesses, and one thought they were travelling at more than 70mph.

He said: “Other witnesses confirm the accused was travelling in excess of the speed limit, with one witness describing his speed as ridiculous.”

The lead car managed to complete the overtaking manoeuvre, but Murphy’s vehicle had insufficient time.

A couple travelling with young children saw his car come over the crest of a hill towards them and managed to bring their Saab almost to a halt. Murphy’s car went off the road and collided with a road sign before hitting a dry-stone wall and rolling into a ploughed field near Timpendean Cottages.

The advocate depute said: “The vehicle came to rest the right way up. The impact caused extensive damage to the entire vehicle.”

Murphy and another passenger, Lee Sanderson, got out of the vehicle, but Mr Whillans, of Longcroft Road, was unconscious and remained in the front passenger seat.

An off-duty surgeon and paramedic tried to give aid to the victim and got him out of the vehicle.

He was taken to the Borders General Hospital in Melrose before being flown by helicopter to Edinburgh, but he did not survive the head injury he sustained.

Police investigators came to the opinion that the Seat had been travelling at excessive speed immediately before the collision.

They said a rise followed by a dip in the road where the overtaking took place was sufficient to obscure vehicles from one another as they travelled in opposite directions, but they said there was adequate warning of the hazard.

The judge deferred sentence on Murphy until next month for the preparation of background reports and agreed to continue his bail.

She also imposed an interim driving disqualification.