Under-age driver pleads guilty to killing friends

A TEENAGER who was not legally old enough to drive has admitted causing the death of his three friends in a car crash.

Robbie Gemmell, who is now 17 and was 16 at the time of the crash, wept as he confessed his role in the incident to his father, a court heard today.

Gemmell originally told police officers that he was a front-seat passenger in the Peugeot 206 that crashed on a single-track road near Tyninghame, East Lothian, in November 2013.

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The crash claimed the lives of Dunbar Grammar School pupils Jenna Barbour, 18, David Armstrong, 15, and Joshua Stewart, 16.

Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard today the four were travelling in a Peugeot 206, belonging to Jenna, when it struck a large wall support on an unclassified stretch of road known as Limetree near Dunbar.

The court heard accident investigators believed the Peugeot was travelling at a minimum of 50 to 54mph in the moments before the collision.

Prosecution lawyer Graeme Jessop said Gemmell told his father that he had been the driver. Mr Jessop said: “The accused started to cry. His father, Mark Gemmell, asked him if he had something to say and he said ‘Dad, I was driving the car’.

“Robbie Gemmell told his father he thought that he was doing around 45mph. He remembers being on the road but Jenna having to grab the wheel to straighten them up. Robbie remembers pulling the steering wheel back the opposite direction from Jenna and then they struck a wall.”

The story emerged after Gemmell, of Dunbar, pleaded guilty yesterday before Sheriff Gordon Liddle to causing the deaths of David, Jenna and Joshua on 25 November, 2013 by driving a car without due care and attention.

Deferring sentence in order for the court to obtain reports, Sheriff Liddle said: “I do not want to deal with this case but it is my duty.” Gemmell, who has no previous convictions, wept uncontrollably as Mr Jessop read the circumstances surrounding the case in open court.

The court heard that at 8:15pm, Gemmell made a 999 call to ambulance control.

Mr Jessop said: “Due to the caller being in a distressed and disorientated state, it took between 15 and 20 minutes to establish the caller’s exact location. This caused difficulties and delay in the emergency services tracing the whereabouts of the collision. A transcript of the emergency call highlights the distressed state of the accused as he did everything he was asked to do by the emergency call handler in a futile attempt to provide assistance to the injured passengers.”

The court heard that the police arrived at the collision scene at 8:55pm. Mr Jessop added: “The deceased David Armstrong had been thrown from the vehicle on impact and was lying on a verge approximately 15 metres from the vehicle with severe head trauma.

“Lying parallel to the driver’s side of the vehicle was the now deceased Jenna Barbour and the third deceased Joshua Stewart was lying parallel to the rear of the vehicle on the road way, again with severe head trauma.They had been removed by the accused under direction of the emergency call handler.

“At that time Gemmell stated to a police officer that he was the front seat passenger. At round 0100 hours on Tuesday November 26, 2013, the undertakers arrived at the locus and it was decided that Jenna Barbour’s body would be removed first.

“At this time, it was observed that Jenna Barbour had injuries to the left side of her body and head which would be consistent to her possibly sitting in the passenger seat of the vehicle.

“At this time a more detailed search was carried out of the Peugeot motor car which revealed Jenna Barbour’s boots within the front passenger foot well of the car while one of the accused’s shoes was found in the driver’s foot well.”

Gemmell will be sentenced on 19 September, 2014.