Driver jailed for killing friend
IF only David John Back had chosen to walk 200 metres instead of driving.
His friend Jill Cupples would still be alive and a Rockhampton judge wouldn’t have sentenced him to 2½ years in jail yesterday.
Back, 33, caused the Longreach schoolteacher’s death in March when a group of friends was preparing to drive to a party after a night of boozing at a pub.
Back got into the driver’s seat of his Volkswagen van parked in the middle of Pelican Street at Longreach, 680km west of Rockhampton.
There were two people in the back of the van and the person sitting in the front passenger’s seat had the door open and was talking to Ms Cupples, who was standing beside the van about to hop into the rear.
Back started the engine, but instead of selecting first gear, he got reverse (which is near first gear in the van’s gearbox).
He turned the steering wheel to drive right and reversed about two or three metres, hitting Ms Cupples with the front passenger door and knocking her to the ground.
In an instant the people in the van felt the vehicle drive over Ms Cupples.
Back jumped out of the van and he and another person desperately tried to resuscitate Ms Cupples.
Two minutes later police arrived and at the time Back was holding Ms Cupples’ body and was covered in her blood.
A response officer tried to do first aid, but Ms Cupples wasn’t breathing and didn’t have a pulse.
She was taken to hospital, but could not be revived.
Back admitted everything that had happened and was taken to the police station.
He told police he had been drinking XXXX Gold and Rum and Cokes only 30 minutes before getting in the car and a test revealed he had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.156%.
Police had the van inspected and a report showed it was “of satisfactory mechanical condition”. A picture of the Volkswagen was tendered in court.
Back pleaded guilty in Rockhampton District Court to dangerous driving causing death, drink-driving and driving with too many people in the car.
Dozens of his family and friends filled the courtroom yesterday.
Ms Cupples’ mother, stepfather and friends were also present.
In a victim impact statement handed up in court yesterday, Ms Cupples’ mother Jennifer said a court decision would not give the family any closure.
On Facebook, friends have set up a remembrance page for Ms Cupples.
People have described the 28-year-old as “an all-round great, friendly, lovable person”. “We will never forget her,” one person wrote.
A thick, blue folder containing 84 references of character for Back were given to the court yesterday.
Judge Grant Britton said he had never seen such a high display of support.
“You are fortunate to have the support of so many people,” he said.
“They all speak in glowing terms of you as a person. Most, if not all, refer to ... the remorse that you have displayed since this tragic event.”
Back has stopped drinking alcohol and become socially withdrawn.
Defence barrister Steve Zillman said Back had “profound regret and remorse for his actions on that terrible night”.
He said Back worked on his parents’ property near Ilfracombe, 20km north of Longreach, and was a “very good community man”, involved in a long list of organisations.
“He’s regarded by all of those people who know him as a fine young man. A man of decency, honesty and integrity,” Mr Zillman said.
“He has profound remorse for his actions.”
Judge Britton was handed a letter of sympathy yesterday that Back wrote to Ms Cupples’ family.
Another letter to the family was written by Back’s family.
Back’s only traffic history was two speeding fines from 2004 and 2001.
Judge Britton said part of Back’s sentence was to create deterrence for other people.
He said it was important that people understood that anybody who drove while drunk and killed somebody would go to jail.
Back was sentenced to 2½ years imprisonment, to be suspended after nine months.
A conviction was recorded and Back’s licence was disqualified for two years.