Jury out in murder trial of Oswestry man accused of 'using car as weapon' to kill woman outside takeaway

A jury has retired to consider whether an Oswestry man used "his car as a weapon" and deliberately drove it at a crowd of young people outside a town centre takeaway, killing a 22-year-old woman.

Rebecca Steer died in Oswestry on May 9 after being hit by McHugh's gold Volvo
Rebecca Steer died in Oswestry on May 9 after being hit by McHugh's gold Volvo

Stephen McHugh of Artillery Road, Park Hall, has admitted the manslaughter of Rebecca Steer, from Llanymynech, Wales, after she was hit by his gold Volvo S60 in Willow Street, Oswestry, in the early hours of October 9 last year, but he has denied murder.

The 28-year-old has also admitted assault occasioning actual bodily harm against Kyle Roberts, who was injured in the incident outside the Grill Out fast food takeaway, but has denied a charge of causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

In summing up the case for the prosecution, following McHugh's two-week trial at Stafford Crown Court, on Tuesday, Kevin Hegarty KC told the jury that McHugh's actions that night were driven out of "anger".

He said McHugh, who had been drinking heavily and taking cocaine throughout the evening, had been involved in an earlier altercation in Red Square in the town centre, where he had admitted to kicking a young man in the head.

"He was still possessed with the anger that led him to kick a man in the head when he was driving along and thought he saw one of the lads involved in Willow Street," said Mr Hegarty.

"So he took the opportunity to continue the violence he had started in Red Square by kicking a man in the head."

He went on: "He reverses the car without looking and then he turns the steering wheel markedly towards the kerb and drove up and through the people on the pavement."

Mr Hegarty added that McHugh had earlier been spotted on CCTV reversing "calmly" when collecting his Volvo from a pub car park just minutes before the incident in Willow Street.

"It was quite slowly, controlled. You might say by a calm driver," Mr Hegarty said.

"Then you contrast that with the very same man a few minutes later on Willow Street. Something had happened. Something had happened to change his mood."

He continued: "Mr McHugh told you that when he reversed, he didn't even look in his mirrors. He just went into reverse and went backwards. Does that look like anger? Indeed it does.

"The prosecution case is that he was using the Volvo as a weapon, not to just nudge someone, not just to scare them, but to use it to knock people over, and of course, there can only be one winner in a contest between a car and a pedestrian. The car never comes off second."

Defending McHugh, Paul Hynes KC told the jury that the earlier altercation in Red Square was a "red herring".

"With the speed everything happened, no-one in that Volvo, never mind the driver, could spot somebody outside the Grill Out and know they were involved in the Red Square incident," he said.

He added that there was no connection between Ms Steer and the defendant and that the young woman's death, while "tragic" was not a case of murder.

"This is a young woman who he [McHugh] did not know, who had done absolutely nothing to him, who threatened to do absolutely nothing to him, who is now dead as a result of his actions. That is unlawful killing, that is manslaughter, but not murder," said Mr Hynes.

Before releasing the jury to consider its verdict, Mr Justice Andrew Baker told the six woman and six men that following the two-week trial, they were there to decide whether the defendant had set out to injure somebody outside the Grill Out takeaway, regardless of who that person was.

He said: "Was he deliberately driving to hit the car intending to cause grievous bodily harm, the prosecution say he was. Or was he trying and intending to pull away and give the crowd a fright, but not trying to hit and injure anyone, as the defence say?"

The trial continues.

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