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'It's not good, don't come over': Dad saw fatal crash, drove home instead of checking on sons

Author
Emily Moorhouse,
Publish Date
Wed, 8 Nov 2023, 4:16pm
Mark Nicholl jnr, one of the men killed in the crash in Halswell in September 2021. Photos / Facebook / George Heard
Mark Nicholl jnr, one of the men killed in the crash in Halswell in September 2021. Photos / Facebook / George Heard

'It's not good, don't come over': Dad saw fatal crash, drove home instead of checking on sons

Author
Emily Moorhouse,
Publish Date
Wed, 8 Nov 2023, 4:16pm

A father has described his mind going blank after he saw a vehicle with his three sons inside spinning out of control before colliding with a ute, killing two and seriously injuring two others.

“It’s them, it’s the boys,” he said to his passenger, who, after rushing over to check the scene, called him to say: “It’s not good, don’t come over.”

Mark Nicholl snr then made the decision to drive home instead of going over to check on his sons, one of whom was dead.

The 55-year-old is now on trial facing allegations he encouraged the dangerous driving that led to the fatal crash in 2021. His son Mark Nicholl jnr, 30 and family friend William Clark, 29 were both killed while another son Jayden Nicholl was seriously injured. A third son Shanan Nicholl suffered a traumatic brain injury.

Mark Nicholl jnr, one of the men killed in the crash in September 2021. Photo / Facebook

Mark Nicholl jnr, one of the men killed in the crash in September 2021. Photo / Facebook

Shanan originally faced the same charges as his father - two charges of being a party to dangerous driving causing death and one of dangerous driving causing injury - but was considered unfit to stand trial due to his brain injury and was discharged.

On Wednesday, Nicholl snr’s police interview, which was conducted on December 15, 2021 following his arrest, was played to the jury and Judge Gerard Lynch as the trial entered its second day at the Christchurch District Court.

He was dining with family and friends at a bar in Halswell when he and his family members allegedly began street racing. The group, travelling in a convoy in a Jeep, a Holden Commodore, a Subaru and a Mazda, journeyed down Main South Rd towards the Halswell Junction and Shands Rd intersection when the Subaru spun out of control and collided with a ute, the court heard.

Nicholl snr explained that once he saw the crash with his sons, he pulled his Holden over down a side street and his passenger, the boys’ uncle, got out to have a look.

Tributes at the scene of the double fatal crash in Christchurch on Saturday night. Photo / George Heard

Tributes at the scene of the double fatal crash in Christchurch on Saturday night. Photo / George Heard

Nicholl snr received a call from him moments later. “It’s not good. Don’t come over,” he said, stating that someone was dead.

From that moment, Nicholl snr said he went into shock and his mind went blank. He sat in his car down the side street for a few minutes not knowing what to do, he told the detective in his interview.

“If I could handle it, I would have gone over...I was too scared,” Nicholl snr said.

“I didn’t want to look like I was leaving but I was sort of in shock and I thought there’s nothing I can do.”

Nicholl snr made the decision to drive home. His only memory of the drive was seeing flashing lights of the emergency service vehicles passing him, rushing to the crash scene. He later went to the hospital to see what the outcome was, he said.

When questioned by the detective on the manner of his driving, he denied engaging in “boy racer” behaviour or racing.

He said the group left Armadillos in Halswell to go to the NPD petrol station just down the road and fill up the Subaru. Nicholl snr admitted taking off fast from the petrol station in his Holden but said he slowed down afterwards.

Shanan Nicholl was injured in a crash that killed his brother Mark. His partner Paula Hardaker has set up a fundraising page to support her family. Photo / Givealittle

Shanan Nicholl was injured in a crash that killed his brother Mark. His partner Paula Hardaker has set up a fundraising page to support her family. Photo / Givealittle

The group were on their way to an 18th birthday party for a few beers, at the Sandrige Motel in Syndenham, Nicholl snr said.

He described the kids wanting to race and revving their engines but said he and his passenger agreed to not engage and travel at the speed limit.

He said his three sons Mark jnr, Shanan and Jayden were travelling in the Subaru with their friend William Clark while there were two females behind the group in a Mazda.

The detective put it to him that his nephew Ricky Nicholl was in a Jeep with another passenger Matthew Gibbons, also traveling in convoy with the group but he said he couldn’t quite recall.

He denied knowing anything about Ricky and Gibbons swapping seats after the crash.

The jury heard that Ricky has pleaded guilty to the same charges Nicholl snr faces, as well as a charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice by swapping seats with Gibbons following the crash.

The couple in the ute that the Subaru crashed into gave evidence on Tuesday and described a scene of chaos as they began trying to help those injured.

The woman said people began turning up at the crash scene, including some girls who she said began screaming once they saw the state of the men in the Subaru.

The Crown alleged that that group began racing, overtaking one another, breaking heavily at traffic lights and speeding excessively when they turned green.

The Crown says that because Nicholl snr was participating in street racing and encouraging Shanan to drive dangerously by lurching forward in his own car, the jury can be sure he is guilty of the charges he faces.

It is the Crown’s case that although Nicholl snr wasn’t the driver of the Subaru at the time of the crash, he “intentionally encouraged” the driver, Shanan, to drive dangerously and therefore, he can be held liable under the term “party liability”.

However, defence counsel Jessica Campbell told the jury he denies encouraging such behaviour and is not responsible for the crash. He was “open and honest” with police, and the jury can be satisfied he is not guilty of the charges.

The trial continues.

Emily Moorhouse is a Christchurch-based Open Justice journalist at NZME. She joined NZME in 2022. Before that, she was at the Christchurch Star.

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