'Cruise' driver, 25, jailed for killing teenager in 'act of grotesque selfishness'

Killed – Scott Watkins killed Sophie Smith when he lost control of a car during a cruise and ploughed into a crowd of spectators (Pictures: PA)

A cruise driver has been jailed for killing a teenager in what a judge branded an “act of grotesque selfishness”.

Scott Watkins, 25, was jailed for nine years and nine months for causing the death of 19-year-old Sophie Smith when he lost control of a high-performance car and ploughed into a group of spectators.

Four other people, including Sophie’s boyfriend Jordan Chidgey, 24, were also left with “life-changing injuries” and two are still in wheelchairs.

‘Act of grotesque selfishness’ – Scott Watkins lost control of a BMW 3 Series and ploughed into a group of spectators – killing one and leaving four injured (Picture: PA)

Manchester Minshull Street Court heard that Watkins was driving a BMW 3 series that was a courtesy car of a friend when he joined more than 60 high-performance and modified vehicles at the regular Thursday night ‘cruise’ on a 500m stretch of dual carriageway at Trafford Park in Manchester on May 31 this year.

Witnesses described seeing motorists ‘drifting’ around a roundabout known as the Magic Roundabout, with one spectator saying they had a feeling “something was going to happen” because of the drivers’ “need for speed”.

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Judge John Potter told him: “It was into this chaos that you decided to drive dangerously a high performance car you had never been in before – an act of grotesque selfishness.”

The court heard that Watkins had accelerated as he approached the roundabout but lost control as he tried to drift, hitting a group of spectators.

Sophie Smith’s boyfriend Jordan Chidgey (pictured above) was left with life-changing injuries after the crash (Picture: PA)

“Having no prior knowledge of that vehicle it is likely you over-compensated thus causing the vehicle to veer violently to the left,” the judge added. “The vehicle then veers into a large group of spectators… causing the most dreadful carnage.

“After the collision your behaviour showed not a shred of concern at what you had just done. You failed to stop and then sped off with a view to avoid capture.”

Watkins, of Worsley Road North, Salford, later abandoned the BMW in Swinton and made no comment to police when arrested and interviewed two days later.

The 25-year-old, who only passed his test in October 2016, had had his license revoked after receiving six penalty points for driving uninsured in March 2017, and so was driving with no insurance at the time of the crash.

He pleaded guilty to causing death and serious injury by dangerous driving, causing death while driving uninsured and failing to report and stop at a collision.


Michael Brady, defending, said his client – who was disqualified from driving for 14 years and 10 months – had shown genuine remorse after making a “momentously, devastating and catastrophic decision.”

Sophie’s mother Sue said: “With Scott Watkins receiving a custodial sentence, his family will have the privilege of visiting him. We shall have the privilege of visiting our beloved Sophie at a graveside.

“When the accused is released from custody, his family will have the privilege of welcoming him home. Although Sophie will always be in our hearts we shall never have the privilege of welcoming her back home.

“The sun will never shine on Sophie’s beautiful and youthful face again.”