Anger as teen death crash driver appears in court

A TEENAGER who killed his best friend in a car crash has said he wished he had died instead.

Robert Thornton was at the wheel of a relative’s powerful Mitsubishi Lancer Extreme Evo when it ploughed into a tree on New Year’s Day.

Seventeen-year-old Earlston Rhymers footballer Scott Johnston died and Thornton, 18, of Castle Wynd, Lauder, spent three months in hospital fighting life-threatening injuries.

The driver’s family had been told he might die after he had to be resuscitated in the wreckage of the car and in an ambulance.

At Duns Sheriff Court last week Thornton admitted causing his Earlston pal’s death by careless driving and while not insured on the A697 near Westruther.

Extra police were drafted into the court where Thornton appeared on indictment.

There have been several court cases since the accident with emotions described at one hearing as “running high” in both Lauder and Earlston.

Defence lawyer Ray Megson said: “He (Thornton) does not remember the accident and, in fact, his last memory was Christmas Day. The prognosis was not good and his mother was told to expect the worst, but he has made a remarkable recovery, although he will not fully recover for sometime yet.”

Mr Megson said his client was emotionally “brain dead “ over the impact of the accident.

He added: “He has shown no form of emotion but says that if he could have his time again he would wish he was dead and not his best friend.”

Mr Megson said he would reserve the remainder of his mitigation for the next hearing on December 19 when background reports will be presented.

Sheriff Kevin Drummond told Thornton: “You are a young man with no previous convictions and have not come to the adverse attention of the authorities, and here you are facing this terrible situation.”

But as he left the dock, Mr Johnston’s angry relatives asked out loud why he was being allowed bail and still allowed to drive.

Prosecutor Tessa Bradley confirmed the crashed car belonged to Thornton’s great uncle Jock Threadgall who had met Thornton by chance shortly after 5.30pm while out in Lauder celebrating with friends on New Year’s Day and asked for a lift home in the teenager’s Vauxhall Corsa.

Ms Bradley said Mr Threadgall – a former professional rally driver – then decided to go to the pub in Westruther and agreed to allow Thornton to drive his Mitsubishi.

She added that after the owner was dropped off, Thornton went back to Threadgall’s house and asked Scott if he wanted a shot in the car to which he agreed.

The fiscal said: “He tried to negotiate a right-hand bend but lost control of the vehicle causing it to cross to the opposite carriageway and then striking a tree.”

She said members of the public went to the aid of the pair before paramedics and police arrived on the scene, but Mr Johnston’s life was pronounced extinct by a doctor at 7.25pm.

She said no defects were found with the car which could have caused the collision and it had recently passed a MOT.

A static speed camera was checked with no indication that Thornton had been speeding. She added he was not insured with or without Mr Threadgall’s permission to drive.

Thornton – who was on a ventilator for nine days and discharged from hospital on April 20 – told police on August 28 that he had little knowledge of the car and that he was a named driver on his mother’s insurance.

z Mr Threadgall, a blacksmith and farrier in Lauder, appeared at the same court last month and pleaded guilty to causing Thornton to use the vehicle without third party insurance. He was fined £200 and had his licence endorsed with six penalty points.