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NSW: Driver accused of murdering pedestrian after crisps thrown

By Margaret Scheikowski
Mon Jul 6 17:54:32 EST 2009

SYDNEY, July 6 AAP - An alcohol- and drug-fuelled woman murdered a pedestrian by driving at him after he threw cheese and bacon crisps at her car, a Sydney court has been told.

Magistrate David Armati also heard evidence that before Eli Westlake was crushed by the car, he hid behind wheelie bins with a friend after an earlier attempt to run him down.

Sarah May Ward, 38, of Pymble, is facing a committal hearing at Sydney's Central Local Court accused of murdering the 21-year-old in the early hours of June 7, 2008, in the northern Sydney suburb of St Leonards.

She faces alternative charges of aggravated dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing death.

Her car hit Mr Westlake, pinning him to the bonnet before he was knocked down a stairwell, where he was crushed under the vehicle.

Sally Traynor, for the crown, said Ward had a blood alcohol reading of 0.141 about two hours after the incident.

In a police interview, Ward admitted having consumed two bottles of wine, four Valium tablets and an ecstasy pill, as well as having smoked marijuana.

She partly blamed her driving on her shoes, said Mr Westlake's group had assaulted her and a male companion who was "pulverised" and said she had not meant to hurt anyone.

Ms Traynor submitted the magistrate would reject Ward's claim that her passenger had wrestled the steering wheel from her as she was having difficulty in reversing the car.

Mr Westlake was walking home from a hotel with friends when his brother Joel brought him a packet of cheese and bacon balls.

Ms Traynor said Mr Westlake said something like "Happy Honeymoon" before throwing some crisps in the air like confetti.

Some landed on a car which contained Ward and a male companion.

Ms Traynor said witnesses would say this resulted in Ward getting out and being "physically and verbally abusive", with one saying she appeared "psycho".

Joel Westlake told the court Ward tried to punch and kick him and was "doing her best to inflict damage".

While she did connect, "no damage was sustained" but, he said, he grabbed her wrist to "remove her from my person".

"She was screaming hysterically, just going nuts," he said, adding that when she got back in her car he fled.

He did not see the car again until "it was on my brother".

Under cross-examination from John Stratton, SC, for Ward, Mr Westlake said the male passenger had got out first but quickly got back in.

"Was the man given a beating by you and your group?" the barrister asked.

"No he was not," Mr Westlake replied, also denying that the top half of the man's clothing was torn off.

He also denied running away because he had taken part in assaulting both the man and Ward.

The hearing will continue on Wednesday.