A mum who admitted causing a drink-drive crash which killed two of her children on the M1 from nearby Milton Keynes to Northampton has been branded a “disgrace” by a judge sentencing her to more than four years.
She handed herself in at Aylesbury police station on 16 September last year, after initially no-showing a court appearance in town earlier that month.
Mary McCann, aged 35, was driving a Vauxhall Astra which collided with a Scania HGV heading towards the Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal at 11.10pm on 9 August last year.
McCann sobbed repeatedly as the court was told her two youngest children Smaller — who was celebrating his 10th birthday that day — and four-year-old Lilly were not wearing seatbelts when the car crashed.
Lily was thrown out of the vehicle while Smaller was found in the back seat, the court heard.
Both suffered traumatic head injuries.
The court was told an eye-witness who stopped to help the victims heard the defendant frantically shouting: “God, why didn't I put their seat belts on.”
McCann was injured while another daughter, 21-month-old Elegance, was strapped into a child’s seat in the car and survived the crash. Her 13-year-old daughter was not in the vehicle.
In mitigation, defence barrister Laban Leake said: “A mother who is unintentionally responsible for her own flesh and blood carries a tortured self-loathing for the rest of her life’s journey and the longer that journey the greater that torture.
"She is here to be punished and rightly so. But the true punishment for this offence lies within Mary McCann and her grief is profound.”
McCann, who appeared via videolink from prison, was said to have drifted from lane one to lane two while speeding but corrected too late to avoid clipping the rear of the truck, sustaining “catastrophic damage”.
Experts estimated she was travelling at more than 72mph in a 60mph zone and had the equivalent of 98 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood. The legal limit is 80mg.
The lorry driver, who was heading for the Royal Mail depot at DIRFT near Crick at 52mph, suffered whiplash and still receives physiotherapy treatment.
In a witness statement he revealed the trauma having watched footage of the crash shot from cameras mounted on the truck.
He said: “This has given me nightmares, flashbacks every day. Depression and constant anxiety.
"I tried to return in mid-October but could not cope seeing other accidents on M1.”
McCann, aged 35, of Bamford Avenue, Derby, admitted two counts of causing death by careless driving while unfit through drink at a hearing in February.
She was sentenced to 49 months for each charge, to be served concurrently — reduced by 25% in recognition of her guilty plea — although her time in custody since last year will count towards her sentence.
His Honour Judge Francis Sheridan said it was “a heartbreaking case” but told McCann: “It is a disgrace, that you as a mother could drive a car with three young children whilst over the limit. You were also over the speed limit.
“You had insufficient car seats for the two children and failed to ensure they were wearing seatbelts.
"The innocent lorry driver has been left deeply affected.”
A five-year driving ban will be extended by half her remaining custodial sentence.