A man who killed two “beautiful, innocent women” in a “horrific” high-speed accident in the southeastern part of Adelaide last year represents one of the most “cruel examples of dangerous driving” ever brought to court, a prosecutor said. .
- The court found that Harrison Kitt was mentally incompetent when he caused a crash that killed two women in April 2020
- Senior SAPOL officer Joanne Shanahan and mother Tania McNeill died in the clash
- Kitt had undiagnosed bipolar disorder at the time
Harrison Kitt was driving at 167 kilometers per hour in a 60 km / h zone when he ran a red light and drove on to the wrong side of the road, killing 53-year-old Tania McNeill and senior police officer Joanne Shanahan at the intersection of Cross Road and Fullarton Road at Urrbrae on Anzac Day 2020.
Shanahan’s husband, Peter, was injured in the crash.
In August, 21-year-old Mr Kitt was found not guilty of mental incapacity for causing their death and injury by dangerous driving,
During sentencing today, prosecutor Patrick Hill told the District Court that Mr Kitt had been driving “at extreme speeds” all the way from Encounter Bay to his house in the south-east of Adelaide before driving through the Urrbrae junction.
“When you look at the extreme speed at which Mr Kitt was driving through that intersection; it was a busy intersection on Saturday afternoon, on the wrong side of the road, against a red light.
“Given the nature of the intersection, in particular, it is perhaps surprising that there were no more losses.”
‘Just lucky’ kids were not in the car
The court heard that it was “just lucky” that the two women’s children were not in their respective cars with them at the time.
Family and friends of Joanne Shanahan and Tania McNeill told the court they could never forgive the man who prematurely took the life of their loved ones and that they did not understand why he was not in jail.
Ms McNeill’s husband, Cary, told the court that his wife of 32 years lived her life for their “miracle baby”, Bailey.
“Now Tania will not be here to see him graduate, turn 18, turn 21, get married, start his own family or watch his grandchildren come to this world,” he said.
“Harrison, I always wanted to tell you, you still have your mother. My son does not, my son has lost his mother as a 14-year-old.
Ms McNeill’s grieving parents, Robert and Zena Lamden, told the court they hoped Mr Kitt would never drive again.
“Tania was loving, caring, fast, full of fun and had so much to offer; everyone loved being with her,” they wrote.
“Our life since the incident is a nightmare from which we can not return.
“We are being punished for our daughter being on the road at the wrong time and doing the right thing.
“Tania and Joanne did their job responsibly, but Harrison Kitt was not, he should have been stopped from driving that day. Because of his actions, we are imprisoned for life while walking away from a free person.”
Victim’s parents: The court deals with a “slap in the face”
Joanne Shanahan’s parents, Nick and Christina Panagiotou, said the whole trial was like a “slap in the face” and that they only “barely survived”.
In their statement about the impact of the victim on the court, they said they were so proud of their daughter and everything she had achieved in the community, but all the “wonderful memories are now so painful”.
“She will not retire and enjoy the life she deserved after working so hard for society for decades,” they said.
“When I go to the stores, everyone stops me and asks me, why is the man who killed your daughter not in jail?
“They want me to explain something to them that I just do not understand.”
Sir. Panagiotou told the court he would never forgive Mr Kitt for taking his beautiful daughter away.
“Please do not ask us to forgive you, this just causes us more pain,” he said.
“You were the man who drove the car that killed our daughter, she did not deserve to die that day.
“How do I live every day knowing that this could have been prevented?
Joanne Shanahan and ‘Heavenly Saints’
Shanahan’s son, Nick, told the court that his mother offered “guidance, wisdom and advice” to everyone around her.
“My mother was the most powerful woman I have ever met,” he told the court.
“She did more good for this world, for women in the police force and for victims of domestic and domestic violence than she could ever be taken away in a moment of weak, selfish actions.”
Her sister Georgie Steiner told the court that Shanahan was like “a heavenly saint” and “her rock”, and her loss had caused “unimaginable pain”.
“She absolutely loved her job and always dreamed of becoming the next female assistant police commissioner, but you took her dream away,” she told the court.
“Our well-being and mental health, including depression, hit everyone hard, just like a prison sentence would. But for your punishment, you might just sit at home, take your medication and be cared for by your mother and father.
“Do not ask for our forgiveness; this is not possible, you must be responsible for two innocent women who were killed on Anzac Day.”
Shanahan’s husband Peter – who was also injured in the crash – told the court he now wanted to “celebrate the amazing lives of these two wonderful women, not mourn their passing”.
“Now I choose to forgive Harrison Kitt,” he told the court.
“My love can never diminish because it exists in its fullness in the present.”
Kitt suffered from a manic episode
Kitt’s attorney, David Edwardson QC, told the court it was “completely understandable” that the family and friends of the two women were angry that there would be no verdict or punishment for the crime.
But he told the court that Mr Kitt, who suffered from a manic episode of undiagnosed bipolar disorder, was in a similar situation as someone who experienced a heart attack or aneurysm behind the wheel, with devastating consequences.
“To say that this is an absolute tragedy does not begin to describe the extent of the loss and destruction that this collision has caused,” he said.
“He now has a much better understanding and insight, as time has progressed, of the magnitude of what he did, albeit an involuntary act.
“He will never be able to put this behind him and just get on with his life.”
Sir. Edwardson told the court that Mr Kitt suffered post-traumatic stress disorder from the crash and “had not used drugs since the accident”.
He said Mr Kitt was “very compatible” with his treatment, well supported and at low risk of recidivism, and said community-based treatment was the most appropriate form of punishment.
Edwardson asked the court to release Mr Kitt into the community on license with conditions, but that he be allowed to drink alcohol on “special occasions”.
The court heard that there was an “ongoing discussion” with the families of the victims – who live near Mr. Kitt and his family – about places he might be banned from visiting.
The case is set to return to court next week.