CONTENT WARNING: Graphic content.
A justice has lamented the loss of two girls who died when their teenage killer crashed the car they were in on the Monaro Highway and then left them behind when he fled to his mother’s home.
“It’s clear that the loss of two young lives in such tragically pointless circumstances will have such a profound effect, most particularly on their extended families,” Justice David Mossop told the ACT Supreme Court.
The killer had been 16, drunk and speeding when he killed 14-year-old Susi Kopysiewicz and her best friend, 15-year-old Claire Sankey, in a crash on the highway on 9 October 2022.
On Wednesday (19 July), Justice Mossop sentenced the teenager, who sat hunched forwards and stared downwards through the hearing, to a total of three years and 10 months’ jail, suspended after he served two years in prison.
As the now 17-year-old has been locked up since he was arrested shortly after the crash, this means he will be released in October 2024.
He had been on a three-day bender before the crash and drank 12 beers and half a bottle of rum before the L-plater took the keys to his mother’s car then drove a friend to pick up Susi and Claire in the early hours of the morning.
He started showing off and drove the group around for a while before heading north on the Monaro Highway.
Traffic cameras showed he was speeding at 200km/hour about 12 seconds before the crash. Both Susi and Claire told him to slow down, while his friend looked at the odometer and saw the speed was 180km/h shortly before they left the road.
The road was wet with rain and the teenager lost control near the intersection with Lanyon Drive. The car slid across two lanes, spun, crashed through temporary construction fencing and smashed into two trees, breaking one off at the trunk.
The friend got out of the car and called out to the others, but the teenager was the only person who responded. They both ran from the scene and caught an Uber to the teenager’s home.
Over the next while, the teenager repeatedly tried to call the two girls on their phones, but they did not answer.
Justice Mossop said the car suffered “catastrophic damage”. He said both girls were pronounced dead at the scene and while an autopsy showed they had survived for a time after the crash, there was no evidence to say whether they were conscious.
He also said while it was not clear what the teenager knew when he fled, he must have known the girls were injured.
Earlier that year, on 30 January 2022, the teenager and a co-offender had flagged down a passing motorist in Monash and asked for a lift, before swearing at the driver and demanding she give them her car.
The victim pleaded with the teenager, who had a knife, and the other boy and screamed before driving away.
Later that same morning, the two approached a taxi in Erindale and asked for a lift as they didn’t have any money. The taxi driver agreed, but during the drive the pair both pulled out knives and held them against his neck and stomach while telling him to get out of the car. The co-offender dragged the taxi driver from his cab and they drove away.
Justice Mossop said this was a betrayal of the kindness shown by the taxi driver.
By the time of the fatal crash, the teenager was on a good behaviour order after being given a non-conviction order for crashing a stolen car while intoxicated. He was also on bail over the incidents in January 2022.
The justice did say there had been a significant change in the teenager since his incarceration for the crash and he had been polite and respectful while in custody.
The teenager pleaded guilty to and was convicted on two counts of culpable driving causing death as well as single counts of failing to render assistance, being an unaccompanied learner driver, robbery, attempted theft and possessing a knife without a reasonable excuse.
When he is released from custody, he must complete a good behaviour order for 22 months with an extra condition that he be placed under supervision by authorities.
The justice said as the teenager was aged under 18, rehabilitation was a very significant consideration in sentencing.