13 September 2022

Alexis was 'ripped from this planet' by 'drift king' found guilty of killing her

| Albert McKnight
Alexis Saaghy in passenger seat of car making peace sign.

Alexis Saaghy is remembered as a kind, loving and funny 16-year-old. Photo: Supplied.

The mother of a 16-year-old girl killed by her boyfriend in a car crash spoke about how proud she was of her kind, funny, caring and loving daughter after a jury announced it had found her killer guilty.

“All she was going to do was pick her path and help society, and she was ripped from this f-king planet,” Claire Wood said of her daughter, Alexis Saaghy.

Jurors in Ameen Hamdan’s ACT Supreme Court trial returned on Monday (12 September) and announced they found him guilty of negligent driving causing death, but acquitted him of the more serious culpable driving charge.

Hamdan was seen lying back in his seat with his hand on top of his head after the verdict was announced, while sobs were later heard in the courtroom’s near-filled gallery. Then, after people began to leave, screams could be heard coming from outside.

Ms Wood said she felt “a bit numb” by the verdict and noted whether negligent or culpable, “he has been found responsible for killing Alexis”.

“I’m saddened that he shows no remorse,” she said.

“The worst part is nothing is going to bring Alexis back. Her life was stopped at 16 years old.

“She’s not coming back and he’s not taking responsibility.”

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Ms Wood said Alexis was the kindest, most loving daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece and friend.

She said her earliest memories of her daughter were how she stuck up for people who were hard done by or were being hurt by others.

She was passionate about the environment, equality, as well as the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and women. She was also “so funny”, loved the ocean and her favourite musician was David Bowie.

“She loved her family so much. She loved her baby brothers so much,” Ms Wood said.

“She was so close to taking off into the world.

“I was always so proud of her. She was the best.”

Man leaving court

Ameen Hamdan (right) leaves court on Monday after being found guilty of negligent driving causing death. Photo: Albert McKnight.

Alexis suffered severe injuries in the early morning crash on 31 October 2020 and died in hospital three days later.

The Supreme Court trial began against Hamdan last week. Jurors heard the then-18-year-old was still on his red Ps and was allegedly speeding and drifting while driving his ute in Wanniassa that rainy morning.

Alexis was in the front passenger seat and two of his teenage friends were in the back.

In a brief video Alexis took shortly before the crash, the group could be seen driving along the dark, rainy road, screaming, while the song ‘Tokyo Drift’ played and Hamdan said, “Ameen Hamdan, drift king”.

Shortly afterwards, Hamdan’s car slid sideways across the road and struck a tree.

“Speeding is one thing, but speeding in the rain, in the dark, is another,” Crown Prosecutor Soraya Saikal-Skea said during the closing addresses for the trial.

“He failed, to a gross degree, to obverse the most basic standard of care to not speed in the rain.”

In the closings by Hamdan’s barrister John Purnell SC, he said one of the friends in the backseat claimed Mr Hamdan yelled out “f-k”, then there was a swerve that led to the loss of control before the crash.

This friend said he thought this could have been because Hamdan saw a kangaroo, but he didn’t see any kangaroo himself.

Mr Purnell suggested that unless the jurors could exclude the reasonable possibility of there being a kangaroo, they could not convict him.

Jurors did appear to consider the possibility because before they delivered their verdicts, they returned to court with a question on the issue.

In Justice Michael Elkaim’s answer, he told them they needed to recall “what is the evidence” about a kangaroo, as well as to “remember that nobody actually saw a kangaroo”.

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In addition to the causing death charge, Hamdan was also found guilty of negligent driving causing grievous bodily harm, which related to the friend in the backseat who broke his arm in the crash, but he was acquitted on the alternative culpable charge.

Justice Elkaim thanked the jurors for their careful consideration in the matter, saying it had not been an easy case as it had the ingredients of emotion and complexion.

Hamdan, who will return to court for his sentencing at a date that is yet to be set, was hugged by his large group of supporters when he left the courthouse.

Alexis’s father, Joel Saaghy, said it had been an emotional week and a half and a painful two years.

“Whilst this does not bring my daughter back, the justice system recognises that Ameen Hamdan is guilty of killing Alexis,” he said.

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