Woman whose friend died 'did not feel it was safe to continue driving'

Driver, 19, whose friend died in horror crash on the M1 hard shoulder after she pulled over for 17 minutes during petrol money row on girls’ night out ‘did not feel it was safe to continue driving’, court hears

  • Chloe Palmer, 19, died of a brain injury after a crash on the M1 in November 2017
  • Christalla Amphlett, 22, pleads not guilty to causing death by dangerous driving 
  • Driver made decision to pull up her Renault Twingo on M1 en route to St Albans
  • Today she told jury she stopped because she did not feel it was safe to continue 

Christalla Amphlett (pictured), 22, has pleaded not guilty to causing the death by dangerous driving of her friend in 2017

A driver whose friend died in a horror crash on the M1 hard shoulder after she pulled over for 17 minutes during a petrol money row on a girls’ night out ‘did not feel it was safe to continue driving’, a court has heard.

Christalla Amphlett, 22, has pleaded not guilty to causing the death by dangerous driving of her friend, Chloe Palmer, 19, in the early hours of November 25, 2017. 

The driver who made the decision to pull up her Renault Twingo on the M1 en route to St Albans at around 3:30am after a Friday night out clubbing with her friends went on trial at St Albans Crown Court on Monday.  

St Albans Crown Court heard the car was stationary, for a second time, on the northbound hard shoulder of the M1, just south of Junction 6 at Bricket Wood in Hertfordshire, when an Isuzu D-Max driven by Bradley Lane careered into the back. 

Ms Palmer, the rear off-side passenger, suffered a severe brain injury and died days later. Maisie O’Flynn, who was on the back seat nearside seat next to Chloe, suffered serious injuries, but survived the crash. 

Keziah Knight, who had been the front seat passenger, was out of the car and sitting on the metal safety barrier.

Prosecutor Wayne Cleaver said it was likely Lane had fallen asleep at the wheel of his vehicle. He said he had earlier pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving. 

Opening the case, Mr Cleaver said she had parked close to the inside lane without any illumination or hazard lights flashing. 

In addition, he said she had opened her door and was sitting with her legs outside the car, prompting one motorists to sound his horn and others to swerve to avoid her car.

He said Christalla, who was 19 at the time, and Maisie started arguing en route about ‘something as trifling as petrol money.’ 


Chloe Palmer (pictured above), 19, died of a severe brain injury after a crash on the M1, just south of Junction 6 at Bricket Wood in Hertfordshire, in November 2017

He said she had agreed to make a detour to St Albans to drop off Maisie but was low on petrol. The passengers were drunk and were beginning to annoy the driver.

Mr Cleaver added: ‘Such was her irritation that she pulled over onto the hard shoulder of the M1 where she remained at a standstill for a few minutes.’

The journey resumed, but further along the motorway the court was told, the defendant again pulled over onto the hard shoulder and stopped the car after the argument about petrol money had started up again. After 17 minutes the crash happened.

In the witness box today Ms Amphlett of Edgware, north London, told the jury she was a full time support worker for 16 to 19 year olds and at the time of the fatal crash had been driving a private ambulance at the weekends. She had been unable to work for a year because of the injuries she received.

She said she did not have a clear memory of what happened because she suffered a ‘bleed on the brain’, a broken jaw and broken neck.

She had gone for lunch at TGI Fridays in Wembley before Maisie invited her and her friends to go Watford. After going to the Hide Out club in Watford town centre she agreed to drive Maisie home to St Albans.

Asked by Richard Dawson, defending, what she could remember, she said: ‘I remember Maisie could not get home. I remember I had to drop her home.

‘I just remember there was an argument. I just remember shouting. I had to stop. I did not feel it was safe to continue.’

Ms Amphlett did not remember what the argument was about but said she assumed it was about petrol money. ‘I did not have petrol to do other drop offs. I assume I was stressed out about that,’ she said. 

Ms Amphlett, pictured above, said: ‘I just remember there was an argument. I just remember shouting. I had to stop. I did not feel it was safe to continue’

Ms Amphlett said she screamed when she found out about Chloe’s death.

Ms Palmer, who lived with her family in Finchley, North London, was removed from the rear of the Renault and initially taken to Watford General Hospital, before being transferred to St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington.

She had sustained a pulmonary contusion, a complex pelvic fracture, fracture to the left leg, and an acute brain injury. She underwent intensive surgical intervention, but the injures to her brain were so severe that she died on December 2017.

The cause of Chole’s death was certified as Hypoxic Brain Injury due to Multiple Traumatic Injuries. 

Mr Cleaver had earlier told the jury: ‘These are unusual circumstances since, as you will have appreciated, at the time of the collision her car was not moving.

‘Nevertheless, the prosecution case is that she was driving; that driving was dangerous; and it was a contributory cause of the collision.’

He continued: ‘In order for the prosecution to prove the case against her we need only prove that her dangerous driving was a cause of Chloe’s death. 

‘It is not necessary to prove that her dangerous driving was the only cause of the collision, nor even the principal or substantial cause.’

He added: ‘Miss Amphlett had created dangerous conditions by deliberately stopping the car where she did. Those conditions became increasingly dangerous the longer the car remained there.’

Mr Cleaver said hard shoulders of motorways were only to be used in circumstances where it was necessary and unavoidable.

He said: ‘It is to be used only in the case of genuine emergencies. This was not such a case.’

The court was previously told that, when the defendant was interviewed under caution in August 2018, she gave a prepared statement to the effect that she was the designated driver that night. 

The jury has been told by PC Seb Jackson, who investigated the crash, that Rule 270 of the Highway Code states drivers must not stop on the hard shoulder except in an emergency or when told to do so by police or traffic officers in uniform.

The trial continues. 

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