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Court told man who could not accept break-up with girlfriend deliberately caused fatal crash.

Mamamia Mamamia 6/04/2016 Shauna Anderson

Warning: This post deals with an attempted suicide and may be distressing for some readers. Readers who may need help are urged to call Lifeline on 0800 543 354 or (09) 522 2999.

On December 29, 2014 four friends were returning to their hometown of Whyalla in South Australia,  after a day of swimming and visiting a palaeontologic dig one of them was interested in for his university studies.

Four friends, two young men and two women were travelling in the car as it made the long journey back.

One of them was texting her mum.

Natasha Turnbull, 24, a passenger in the car had just sent her mother the last text she ever would.

It was 12.20am and her mum asked her how far away she was.

“I’m 37km away, mum”.

She never made it.

Seconds later a white Nissan Patrol came barreling across the lane and drove head on into the blue Mitsubishi Pajero she was travelling in.

Her friend and driver James Moore, 24, of Bellevue Heights was also killed in the crash and friends Amy Jones, 23, and Jason Bristow, 25, both of Whyalla, were seriously injured.

The crash devastated the families of Natasha Turnbull and James Moore and threw the local community into mourning and anger.

At the funeral of Natasha Turnbull, a local postie studying social work at uni, her mother said that her and her daughter were inseparable. “I’ve lost a piece of my heart, a piece of my soul,” Ms Cholodniuk said.

James Moore, who was driving the car had been Flinders University palaeontology research associate. His sister described him as a “gentle giant and said the crash had caused a “senseless and tragic loss.”

Early police investigations alleged that the white Nissan Patrol driven by a 36-year-old Whyalla man, travelled onto the incorrect side of the road deliberately, there was speculation it was a suicide attempt.

He survived the crash.

Six months later police charged the driver Michael Frank Knowles, 37, with murder.

He attempted to plead guilty to the lesser charge of causing death by dangerous driving, but that offer was rejected by prosecutors reports The Advertiser.

Yesterday he appeared in court at the start of his trial where he pleaded not guilty to their murders but admitted causing the deaths of James Moore and Natasha Turnbull.

The Advertiser reports that in his opening address prosecutor Mark Norman said that Knowles was depressed about the breakdown of his relationship and had told his former partner he would kill himself by driving into a truck.

Teri Gelligan, Knowles’s partner had been subjected to Knowles’ threats to take his own life before the prosecutor said.

On that night she refused to let him stay with her.

“He stormed off, only to return a few minutes later, stating ‘I want one last hug before I go and do this’,” Mr Norman said.

Ms Gelligan immediately contacted police but they were unable to track him down.

Knowles had turned to social media updating his Facebook page with the message “The pain ends now”.

Mr Norman said Knowles was drunk and angry.

“He had threatened and indeed announced that he was going to kill himself, and he determined to do it exactly in the way that he told Ms Gelligan that he was going to do it,” he said.

“Instead of choosing to drive into a tree or a rock or a brick wall, or even an empty parked car, he chose to drive straight into Mr Moore’s Pajero, no doubt expecting to die,“ Mr Norman said.

Last year the families of James Moore and Natasha Turnbull pleaded with the local community to allow justice to run its course.

They said they did not place blame on the other driver’s family and urged the community to also respect this.

“The blame and retribution needs to stand with him; and him alone,” Carrol and Rod Moore and Kieran and Michelle Turnbull said.

In a statement to the local newspaper, The Whyalla News they said: “We too are angry and sad that such a terrible incident can occur in our community, anger is a pathway through the grieving process and is natural to us all,”

“So we understand that many decent and good people are angry, hurting, and grieving with us.

“It is for this reason we would like once more to ask our community to be considerate and think about how they direct and manage their anger.”

The lawyer representing Knowles, Phil Crowe his in court yesterday that Knowles had agreed he had caused the deaths of the two young friends.

“The main issue in this trial is whether Mr Knowles was attempting to commit suicide at the time of the collision,” Mr Crowe said.

The trial continues.

Readers who may need help are urged to call Lifeline on 0800 543 354 or (09) 522 2999.

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