Cocaine-fuelled driver killed graduate when speeding wrong way down main road

A cocaine-fuelled driver who killed a university graduate when he drove the wrong way down a major road has been jailed.

Riding a stolen white van, Ashley Loveday, 39, was hurtling down the A13 in east London on November 25 last year when he crashed into an Uber.

He collided with a Toyota Prius with the University of Kent graduate Grace Payne, 21, as he drove at 71mph chased by police.

Payne, who had only just started working at an architectural firm, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Uber driver, Sundar Ali, 59 suffered serious, life-changing injuries but survived.

Loveday appeared at London’s Old Bailey today and showed no emotion as Judge Mark Dennis KC handed him a 14-year sentence for causing death by dangerous driving, two years and eight months imprisonment each for causing serious injury by dangerous driving and aggravated vehicle taking, to run concurrently.

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The judge said: ‘Your actions on that fateful night in November last year involved driving at the highest level of dangerousness to others in a prolonged and determined course of dangerous driving, leaving in its wake two victims.

‘It has caused indescribable anguish for many, and irreparable harm.

‘It was perhaps only pure chance that others were not also harmed at one stage or another in that dreadful course of driving.’

‘That catastrophic collision was the culmination of highly dangerous driving by the defendant for nearly six miles,’ he added.

At around 2am, Payne booked the can on the ride-sharing app as she was heading back home to Upminster from a work party.

Loveday, who never passed his driver’s test, became involved in a high-speed police chase when he was caught by a number plate recognition camera.

He was behind the wheel of a Peugeot Boxer van stolen from Dockside Road, Canning Town, on 18 October 2022. It had been fitted with a fake licence plate and had been used to steal other vehicles.

Peter Ratliff, prosecuting, told the court: ‘The defendant was driving at approximately 75mph, on a road with a speed limit of 40mph, and then 30mph.’

A toxicology report showed that Loveday had four times the ‘specified limit to drive’ of cocaine.

At 70mph, Loveday veered the wrong way around a roundabout through red lights and a pedestrian crossing before screeching into the A13.

One officer, who shadowed Loveday, said: ‘I cannot understate at this point just how dangerous the subject vehicle’s driving was.

‘At points, I would have estimated its speed of around 90mph, if not more,’ he added, with police data showing Loveday driving at 112mph.

Ratliff said: ‘The defendant, however, had lost the police pursuit but nevertheless continued to drive in the most dangerous and previously unimaginable way.

‘The defendant’s vehicle had been travelling the wrong way on the A13 for over one minute and 40 seconds, and had travelled over 2.53km when it struck Sundar Ali’s Toyota Prius head-on.’

Loveday’s stolen van ‘went airborne’ before landing on its side.

Ratliff said Payne was found ‘slumped in her seat with her seatbelt on’ with a ‘significant injury to her abdomen’ – injuries paramedics said were ‘unsurvivable’.

‘At 2:58am the decision was made to stop efforts to resuscitate her as it was clear that she had died,’ he said.

‘Sundar Ali was gasping for breath, with his hands clenching in an unnatural manner,’ Ratliff added.

Ali’s life was upended by the crash. He was taken to the hospital with a wounded spleen and a fractured collar bone, a left upper arm bone and a right thumb bone.

The driver’s brain function is now impaired, and headaches and forgetfulness are now part of daily life for Ali.

He has not only lost income as he can no longer work as a cab driver but his strength too – Ali cannot lift objects or carry out many everyday tasks.

‘The psychological impact has been considerable for him, caused primarily for his feeling of what happened to his passenger Grace Payne,’ he said.

‘He considers himself to be significantly traumatised by flashbacks and nightmares and similar.’

Loveday suffered a broken nose and fractured ribs and pelvis and has since recovered.

Payne’s parents said in a statement: ‘Grace’s death has left her family devastated. They are still struggling to come to terms with the fact that Grace will never come home.

‘She was caring, compassionate, bright and bubbly with the ability to brighten up their day. She left everyone in the room happy.’

Grace, her family added, had blossomed since lockdown ended and hoped to retrain as a primary school teacher.

‘She was the one looking after everyone else making sure everyone got home safely,’ they added.

‘Tragically she never made it home.

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