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Girl cleared of causing death crash

PUBLISHED: 17:43 16 September 2009 | UPDATED: 09:21 12 August 2010

A TEENAGE girl accused of killing a 21-year-old man has been cleared of manslaughter. It was alleged that the 17-year-old, who cannot be

A TEENAGE girl accused of killing a 21-year-old man has been cleared of manslaughter.

It was alleged that the 17-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had grabbed the steering wheel of driver Lee Waite's Mini Cooper, causing it to crash and killing him almost instantly.

But last Friday a jury at the Old Bailey took less than an hour to clear the teen of any wrongdoing.

The court heard earlier how part-time waiter Mr Waite had been driving with no licence, no insurance and had traces of ecstasy and alcohol in his blood when the car crashed in Southborough Lane, Petts Wood, on February 10 last year.

There were seven people in the vehicle, none of whom were wearing seatbelts. The girl was sitting on the lap of 20-year-old Richard Rutter when the Mini suddenly careered off the road, hitting a tree and a wall on the driver's side.

Mr Rutter and the former best friend of the girl, who was sitting in the backseat, alleged she had 'yanked' the steering wheel seconds before the impact.

But the defendant, who escaped with only minor cuts and a broken arm, told the jury they had both lied to police and her friend was 'infatuated' with Mr Waite so blamed her.

She said: "Why would any of them care that I would have to deal with all of this and people telling me that I have killed someone I haven't killed?"

Asked by prosecutor Sarah Whitehouse why her best friend would have reason to lie about what she did, the girl said: "People want to blame the person who doesn't know everybody. She was infatuated with Lee - I don't know why she has lied."

Her parents sobbed and held hands in the well of the court while their daughter wept and shouted 'thank you' as the verdict was announced.

But the decision was greeted by shouts and yells from a packed public gallery, where many of Mr Waite's family and friends were sitting.

The court heard earlier how the group had been drinking in The Chequers pub in Southborough Lane before going back to one of the girl's houses where they watched some DVDs. Mr Waite then drove them to a garage to get some cigarettes and more alcohol.

The car crashed on the way back at a speed somewhere between 50-70mph causing an impact so great that the engine fell out of the vehicle.

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