Manhunt Begun for Speedboat Owner Convicted in Death of Woman From Alcohol-Fueled Crash on Thames

British man, convicted in absentia, is accused by own defense lawyer of ‘cowardice’
By John Smithies, Epoch Times
July 30, 2018 Updated: September 26, 2019

LONDON—An international manhunt is on for a speedboat owner who was convicted on July 26 in connection with the death of his boat passenger during a champagne-fueled date in 2015.

Jack Shepherd, 30, is being sought in connection with the death of Charlotte Brown, 24, in a speedboat crash on London’s Thames River in December 2015.

Shepherd was convicted of manslaughter by gross negligence at a trial at London’s Old Bailey, but did not attend court. He was sentenced to six years in prison, of which he will have to serve at least three.

Detective Sergeant Christopher Davis from the Met Police said in a statement: “A jury has decided that Charlotte’s life was lost due to Jack Shepherd’s reckless actions. To take his boat out at night, whilst drinking, in winter conditions and without offering Charlotte a life jacket or even asking if she could swim was a recipe for disaster. That night ended in a tragedy and the consequences will live with Charlotte’s family forever.”

While Shepherd had attended previous hearings, his lawyer, Stephen Vullo, told the court he did not attend the final one because he “could not have faced the Brown family.”

“It’s cowardice. It is not some clever trick to avoid justice,” Vullo said, according to the BBC.

Police said they were “keeping an open mind” on whether Shepherd had left the country because he had traveled abroad in the last year.

During the trial, the court heard how Shepherd had used the small red boat to “pull women” and had let at least five of his previous dates take control of the boat.

Following the trial, Brown’s mother told the BBC that it had been “pretty devastating” that Shepherd had skipped bail “because … he’s brought devastation to us.”

Brown’s twin sister, Katie, said: “He’s been able to choose not to turn up and it just didn’t seem fair. We wanted him to face the trial.”

Brown’s father told The Sun that “justice is coming” for Shepherd.

Graham Brown, 52, said: “Those who know something need to examine their consciences. I’m sure someone will make that call. Justice is coming, of that I’m certain.”

Shepherd, a web designer, had met Brown on the dating website OkCupid and treated her to a $200 meal at a restaurant in London’s iconic Shard building. They drank two bottles of wine and then took a taxi back to Shepherd’s home in Hammersmith, west London.

In a police interview, Shepherd described the events of the evening as being “hazy” because of the amount of alcohol the pair consumed.

He said they took his speedboat out on the Thames, along with a bottle of champagne, for a trip past the Houses of Parliament.

In cellphone footage released by the Met Police, Brown can be heard exclaiming that they were going “so fast.” It was later discovered that Shepherd had been going more than twice the 12-knot speed limit.

Shepherd admitted to police that he did not tell Brown about the lifejackets he had on board, or ask whether she could swim.

After returning from the Houses of Parliament, Shepherd handed the controls of the boat over to Brown, who went “full throttle.”

At around 11:45 p.m., the boat hit a submerged log and capsized, tipping both Shepherd and Brown into the water. Neither was wearing a life jacket—although there were two on board.

While Shepherd managed to cling to the hull, Brown was pulled from the water unconscious and unresponsive. Paramedics were unable to revive her.

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