5 September 2022

'Drift king' on trial accused of killing 16-year-old girlfriend in car crash

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

Alexis Saaghy died in hospital three days after the accident on 31 October 2020. Photo: Supplied.

A young man has been accused of drifting along the road before he sped, lost control of his car and smashed into a tree, killing his 16-year-old girlfriend.

Alexis Saaghy was taken to hospital after the early morning crash on 31 October 2020, but her injuries were deemed to be not survivable and she died three days later.

Her then-boyfriend, Ameen Hamdan, was charged with culpable driving causing death and an ACT Supreme Court jury trial began against him on Monday (5 September).

Mr Hamdan was just 18 and still had his P plates when he was driving his Nissan Navara in Wanniassa at about 2:00 am that rainy morning, Crown Prosecutor Soraya Saikal-Skea told the 12 jurors.

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

Ms Saikal-Skea alleged Mr Hamdan was “drifting” on the road in the minutes before the crash, saying she expected jurors would hear a video taken by Alexis in which someone could be heard saying, “Ameen Hamdan, drift king”, while the song ‘Tokyo Drift’ played in the background.

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She said the speed limit on the road was 50 km/h but expected an Australian Federal Police collision expert would allege Mr Hamdan had been speeding at 81 to 100 km/h as he drove on Longmore Crescent.

Mr Hamdan’s car allegedly hit a concrete gutter, lost control, slid sideways across the road and then struck the tree.

Ms Saikal-Skea said his car suffered extensive damage, mainly to the front passenger side.

All four occupants were injured, including Mr Hamdan, who needed surgery to his eye, while an 18-year-old in the backseat suffered a broken arm.

The prosecutor said intoxication wasn’t a factor in this case and there was no intention to cause a crash, but the allegations were simple.

“A young man speeds in the rain on a dark street. He oversteers, he slides 50 metres and collides with a tree,” she alleged.

Man in black suit leaving court

Ameen Hamdan leaves court on Monday. Photo: Albert McKnight.

It was a tragic case, she said, involving four young friends, all of them injured and one fatally so.

Barrister John Purnell SC, appearing for Mr Hamdan, described the event as a “tragic accident” and argued the best evidence showed his client had been driving normally and wasn’t speeding.

He said his team would call their own collision expert who disagreed with the Crown’s expert.

During cross-examination by Mr Purnell, the backseat passenger who broke his arm in the crash said he asked Mr Hamdan to stop swerving at one point “way before” the crash and he did.

This passenger admitted he was half-asleep at the time but thought Mr Hamdan was driving at a normal speed before the crash and heard his friend yell out something.

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Mr Purnell asked if Mr Hamdan yelled because a kangaroo had jumped in front of the car and the passenger replied that’s what he assumed, but he didn’t see a roo himself.

He also said it was Mr Hamdan who called himself the “drift king” in a short video taken by Alexis during the drive, which was screened to jurors.

A nearby resident told jurors he heard an “accelerating sound” before the “unmistakable” noise of the crash so he ran outside to help.

Mr Purnell challenged him, saying he had never used the phrase “accelerating sound” before to police, but the resident said he didn’t understand how it was different to the phrase he previously used.

“It sounded like a quick vehicle,” the resident said.

Mr Hamdan is charged with culpable driving causing death and grievous bodily harm, as well as the alternative charges of negligent driving causing death and grievous bodily harm.

The grievous bodily harm charges related to the passenger who broke his arm. The trial continues before Justice Michael Elkaim.

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