Former kids’ TV presenter who starred with Fearne Cotton and Reggie Yates is jailed for nine years after admitting he caused deaths of two people in eight-car pile-up while high on cocaine

  • Ex-child actor Paul Ballard, 39, of Theydon Bois, Essex today jailed for nine years
  • He admitted killing two people in an eight car smash in Romford, Essex last year
  • Eileen Haskell, 64, and Richard Trezise, 48, were the victims of the horrific crash 
  • Ballard had starred alongside Fearne Cotton and Reggie Yates on GMTV’s Diggit

A former children’s TV presenter was today jailed for nine years after he admitted killing two people in an horrific eight car smash. 

Paul Ballard, 39, was high on cocaine and cannabis when he ploughed into 64-year-old Eileen Haskell’s car in his VW Golf on Squirrels Heath Road in Romford on 20 February last year.

Ballard, who is a convicted rapist, was driving between ’88mph and 104mph’ in a 30mph zone before he hit the back of Ms Haskell’s Ford Kuga.

The second victim, school teacher Richard Trezise, 48, was waiting at a bus stop with members of his family when he was struck by a vehicle and killed in the pile-up.

Eight cars were involved in the collision and at least seven people were treated in hospital.

Former child actor and TV presenter Ballard had starred on GMTV’s programme Diggit from 1998 to 2002 with Fearne Cotton, Craig Doyle, and Reggie Yates.

Paul Ballard, back row second from right, is pictured next to Reggie Yates (centre) and Fearne Cotton (bottom right) before the trio starred on GMTV’s children’s programme Diggit from 1998 to 2002

Ms Haskell was pronounced dead at the scene and following a post-mortem examination the cause of death found to be multiple injuries.

Cocaine addict Ballard was driving with his 12-year-old son in the front passenger seat and claimed he suffered a seizure before the crash, the Old Bailey heard.

Ballard, of Woodland Way, Theydon Bois, Essex, admitted two counts of causing death by dangerous driving.

He denied two counts of causing death by driving whilst uninsured, which will not be pursued.

Ballard was also recently convicted of raping a woman in a hotel following a trial at Chelmsford Crown Court and is awaiting sentence for that offence.

During the sex attack the 39-year-old told the victim: ‘Your life is ending… You’re dying tonight.’

The former child actor presented children’s programme Diggit on GMTV from 1998 to 2002 with Fearne Cotton, Craig Doyle, and Reggie Yates.

Edward Franklin, prosecuting, told the court: ‘The defendant approached two lines of stationary vehicles at a red light.

‘460 metres or so from the junction the speed appears to be similar to that of other vehicles, but the car then accelerated reaching around 75mph at 200 metres from the junction before hitting a maximum speed of between 88-104mph.

‘The speed limit on the road was 30mph.

‘It was about 1.15pm when the car crashed into the rear of a Ford Kuga driven by Ms Haskell.

‘The Kuga was lifted up and thrown into a car, a silver Ford Fiesta, and that vehicle collided with a transit van before turning onto its side.

‘The Kuga went into a bus shelter, striking Mr Trezise in the chest,’ said Mr Franklin.

Pictured: The horrifying aftermath of the eight car pile-up in Romford, Essex last February that claimed the lives of Eileen Haskell, 64, and Richard Trezise, 48

‘Richard Trezise was 48 years of age at the time of his death, and he had arrived at the bus stop shortly before the collision with his wife, Sharon, and son, Robert.

‘Sharon and Robert witnessed him fall to the floor after he’d been hit.’

Mr Trezise was pronounced dead at 2pm and a post-mortem examination concluded that the cause of death was multiple severe injuries to the chest.

Half an hour later, at 2.30pm, Ms Haskell was pronounced dead at the scene and following a post-mortem examination the cause of death found to be multiple injuries, particularly to the brain stem.

The other drivers involved in the smash escaped with only minor injuries.

Eyewitnesses reported seeing Ballard ‘fitting’, describing him as ‘shaking and not responsive’.

On 24 September last year Ballard admitted to police that he was addicted to cocaine and had taken some that day.

Mr Franklin said: ‘He said first of all that he passed out during a seizure while driving and did not remember anything of the accident.

‘He said that he had regular seizures that on a few occasions had caused him to hit his head.

‘He told the officer that he didn’t experience any warning prior to the seizures but said they came on randomly.

‘He said he’d been abusing cocaine on most days over the preceding few years.’

In 2017, Ballard received residential treatment for cocaine dependency.

Blood samples revealed that Ballard’s blood contained 3.5mg of THC, the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis, and 32mg of cocaine, over three times the legal limit.

He appeared in court today wearing a dark grey suit and glasses, and spoke only to confirm his identity.    

Eileen Haskell, 64, (above) was driving when she was killed in the collision last February

In her victim statement, Mr Trezise’s wife Sharon Trezise said: ‘He wasn’t just my husband, he was my best friend, my rock.

‘He would make me laugh, he was always worried I worked too hard.

‘We were so happy and still very much in love with one another.

‘Losing him the way I did is something I will never recover from.’

Mrs Haskell’s daughter Sienna Haskell said her father had recently been diagnosed with skin cancer and was due to undergo invasive surgery the day after her mother’s death.

She said: ‘My mum was ripped from us a year ago and before I could even process my grief I had to watch my father die too.’

‘The worst part is knowing that all of this could have been avoided.’

Ms Haskell’s eldest daughter Holly Haskell attended the hearing via video-link from Australia. She has been unable to leave the country during the pandemic so has not been able to see her family since her mother’s death.

She wept as her sister’s victim statement was read to the court.

Ballard’s father and other relatives were in the public gallery for the hearing along with other members of the victims’ family. 

The Common Serjeant of London, Judge Richard Marks, QC, passed sentence this afternoon.

The judge said Mr Trezise was a ‘much loved father and husband, as well as a hugely respected teacher.

‘His wife and son witnessed these events, they saw him fall to the floor after he’d been hit.

‘Both Mr Trezise and Mrs Haskell were pronounced dead at the scene.

‘Miraculously your son only had minor injuries.

‘The fact that other individuals were not killed, or were not seriously injured, is entirely fortuitous.

‘A toxicological examination of your blood, taken at about 8pm on the day of the incident, showed that you had THC and cocaine in your blood to a significant degree, although it is right to say that there is no evidence that this caused the fit nor is there any evidence that you were in any material way affected by these drugs.

‘The victim impact statements were profoundly moving and heartbreaking in the extreme.

‘It goes without saying that no sentence I am imposing on you will seem adequate to any of them or be capable of compensating either family for their absolutely devastating loss.’

‘You drove with your 12 year old son next to you, thereby putting him substantially at risk.’

Ballard was jailed for nine years and he will be disqualified for seven years once he is released from prison.

He must also take an extended driving test before he can take the wheel.

The judge also extended his condolences to family members of the victims.

  •  In an earlier version of this article, the picture caption mistakenly identified Sam Kennard (top left in orange shirt) as Paul Ballard (red shirt in centre of backrow). We apologise for the error

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