'Don't ask for our forgiveness': Heartbroken family of Urrbrae crash victims speak in court

'Don't ask for our forgiveness': Heartbroken family of Urrbrae crash victims speak in court

Urrbrae, Fatal

6/12/2021 7:18:00 AM

'Don't ask for our forgiveness': Heartbroken family of Urrbrae crash victims speak in court

Family and friends of two women killed in a high-speed crash in Adelaide's south-east last year tell the District Court they can't forgive the mentally unwell driver responsible.

A man who killed two "beautiful, innocent women" in a "horrendous" high-speed crash in Adelaide's south-east last year represents one of the most "egregious examples of dangerous driving" that has ever come before the courts, a prosecutor says.

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Key points:The court found Harrison Kitt was mentally incompetent when he caused a crash that killed two women in April 2020Senior SAPOL officer Joanne Shanahan and mother Tania McNeill died in the collisionKitt had undiagnosed bipolar disorder at the time

Harrison Kitt was driving at 167 kilometres per hour in a 60kph zone when he ran a red light and went on to the wrong side of the road, killing 53-year-old Tania McNeill and senior police officer Joanne Shanahan at the intersection of Cross Road and Fullarton Road at Urrbrae on Anzac Day 2020. headtopics.com

Ms Shanahan's husband, Peter, was injured in the crash.In August, 21-year-old Mr Kitt was foundnot guilty by reason of mental incompetenceof causing their deaths and harm by dangerous driving,During sentencing submissions today, prosecutor Patrick Hill told the District Court Mr Kitt had driven "at extreme speeds" all the way from Encounter Bay to his house in Adelaide's south-east, before driving through the Urrbrae intersection.

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"This must be one of the most egregious examples of death by dangerous driving that has come before the courts," Mr Hill told the court."When you look at the extreme speed at which Mr Kitt went through that intersection; it was a busy intersection on Saturday afternoon, on the wrong side of the road, against a red light.

"Given the nature of the intersection, in particular, it's perhaps surprising there weren't more losses."'Just lucky' children weren't in the carThe court heard it was "just lucky" that the children of the two women were not in their respective cars with them at the time.

Family and friends of Joanne Shanahan and Tania McNeill told the court they could never forgive the man who prematurely took their loved ones lives' away, and that they did not understand why he was not in prison.Tania McNeill's parents described her as loving, caring, quick-witted and full of fun. headtopics.com

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(Supplied)Ms McNeill's husband, Cary, told the court his wife of 32 years lived her life for their "miracle baby," Bailey."Now Tania won't be here to see him graduate, turn 18, turn 21, get married, start his own family or watch her grandchildren come into this world," he said.

"Harrison, I have always wanted to say to you, you still have your mother. My son doesn't, my son has lost his mother at 14 years old."He was robbed of a happy, loving mother."Ms McNeill's grieving parents, Robert and Zena Lamden, told the court they hoped Mr Kitt never drove again.

"Tania was loving, caring, quick-witted, full of fun and had so much to offer; everyone loved being with her," they wrote."Our lives since the incident are a nightmare that we can't go back from."We are being punished for our daughter being on the road at the wrong time, doing the right thing.

"Tania and Joanne were responsibly doing their jobs but Harrison Kitt wasn't, he should've been stopped from driving that day. Because of his actions we are imprisoned for life, while he walks away a free person."Victim's parents: court process a 'slap in the face' headtopics.com

Joanne Shanahan's parents, Nick and Christina Panagiotou, said the whole court process was like a "slap in the face" and they were only "barely surviving".In their victim impact statement to the court they said they were so proud of their daughter and all she had achieved in the community, but all the "wonderful memories are now so painful".

"She won't get to retire and enjoy life as she deserved after working so hard for the community for decades," they said."When I walk to the shops, everyone stops me and asks me, why is the man who killed your daughter not in jail?"They want me to explain to them something that I just don't understand."

Assistant Police Commissioner Joanne Shanahan.(ABC News: Simon Royal)Mr Panagiotou told the court he would never forgive Mr Kitt for taking his beautiful daughter away."Please don't ask us to forgive you, this just causes us more pain," he said.

"You were the man driving the car that killed our daughter, she did not deserve to die that day."How do I live each day knowing this could have been prevented?"Harrison might walk from court and go home to his family, each day I struggle to find justice and fairness in that."

Joanne Shanahan a 'heavenly saint'Ms Shanahan's son, Nick, told the court his mother offered "guidance, wisdom and counsel" to all around her."My mother was the most powerful woman that I have ever met," he told the court.

"She did more good for this world, for women in policing and for victims of family and domestic violence than could ever be taken away in a moment of weak, selfish acts."Joanne Shanahan's parents and sister attended the hearing.(ABC News: Claire Campbell

)Her sister Georgie Steiner told the court Ms Shanahan was like "a heavenly saint" and "her rock" and her loss had caused "unimaginable pain"."She absolutely loved her job and always dreamed of becoming the next female assistant police commissioner; but you took her dream away," she told the court.

"Our wellbeing and mental health, including depression, all hit hard, just like a prison sentence would. But for your punishment you might just be sitting at home, taking your medication, and being looked after by your mum and dad."I'm scared that you will not be punished, I'm scared that you will drive again.

"Don't ask for our forgiveness; this is not possible, you need to be accountable for two innocent women killed on Anzac Day."Ms Shanahan's husband Peter — who was also injured in the crash — told the court he was now going to "celebrate the amazing lives of these two wonderful women, not mourn their passing".

"Now I choose to forgive Harrison Kitt," he told the court."My love cannot ever be diminished because it exists in its fullness in the now."Family and friends of Joanne Shanahan and Tania McNeill filled the courtroom.()Kitt suffered manic episode

Mr Kitt's lawyer, David Edwardson QC, told the court it was "completely understandable" the family and friends of the two women were angry that there would be no conviction or penalty for the crime.But he told the court Mr Kitt, who suffered a manic episode from undiagnosed bipolar disorder, was in a similar situation to someone experiencing a heart attack or aneurism behind the wheel, with devastating consequences.

"To say this is an absolute tragedy does not begin to describe the magnitude of the loss and devastation this collision has caused," he said."Harrison Kitt is devastated by what he is done, he is genuinely apologetic."He now has a much better understanding and insight as time has progressed of the magnitude of what he did, albeit an involuntary act.

"He will never be able to put this behind him and simply get on with his life."Tributes that were left at the site of the crash last year.(ABC News: Patrick Martin)Mr Edwardson told the court Mr Kitt suffered post-traumatic stress disorder from the crash and "had not used drugs since the accident".

He said Mr Kitt was "highly compliant" with his treatment, well supported and had a low risk of re-offending, saying community-based treatment was the most appropriate form of sentence.Mr Edwardson asked the court to release Mr Kitt into the community on licence with conditions, but that he be allowed to drink alcohol on "special occasions".

The court heard there was an "ongoing discussion" with the victims' families — who live near Mr Kitt and his family — about locations he might be banned from visiting.The matter will return to court next week.

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