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Attempted murder charge dropped in case against woman who crashed car into Inverness building

By Joanne Warnock

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The building which was hit by the car was badly damaged and encased in scaffolding for months after the incident.
The building which was hit by the car was badly damaged and encased in scaffolding for months after the incident.

A woman has admitted lesser charges of dangerous driving after first going on trial for attempted murder at the High Court in Aberdeen.

Donna Stewart (46) had been facing three counts of attempted murder after smashing her car – containing three passengers – into a building in Inverness two years ago.

Her trial began in the High Court in Aberdeen this week, but Stewart has now agreed on a plea bargain with the Crown prosecutors.

The three charges of attempted murder of her passengers have been dropped and she has instead pleaded guilty to causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

Her pleas of not guilty to a further five charges which included assaulting and abusing her ex-partner – Hugh Lowther, drink-driving, threatening behaviour and further charge of dangerous driving were all accepted by the Crown.

On January 21, 2021, just after 9pm. Stewart drove her Mercedes C220 erratically around the centre of Inverness with three men inside, deliberately crashing it into a building, causing them severe injuries.

Her passengers – Hugh Lowther, Stephen MacDonald and John Fraser were all taken to Raigmore Hospital and treated for multiple broken bones.

The court heard how Stewart’s blood sample – taken later the same night – had shown she was almost twice the legal limit of alcohol allowable for driving.

The court was shown CCTV footage which showed her car crashing at speed into the former William Hill betting shop in Grant Street, and heard from an eye witness that what ensued was a “chaotic” scene.

The court had also been told that Stewart and her ex-partner Hugh Lowther had an “on-off” relationship and they had been arguing earlier that day.

Stewart, now residing at McCallum Court, Perth, had been heard repeatedly saying she “wanted him to die”.

Sarah Marshall (38) said she and her partner Stephen MacDonald, one of the car’s passengers, had been living in Albany Place, Kirkhill at the time of the accident.

Ms Marshall told the court that earlier that day, Mr MacDonald had been at a funeral of a friend in Inverness and she had picked him up and driven him home. On arrival back at their house she said Stewart and her partner Hugh Lowther were there waiting for them.

Ms Marshall said Stewart “had been drinking” and was “being loud and quite mouthy”.

Describing the couple as being “on and off” and she said they were “not getting on” at the time, adding: “She [Donna] said that she wanted him [Hugh] to die. She said it a couple of times.”

The court heard, as a result of the incident, Mr Lowther had broken both his upper and lower right leg and had also broken his spine and two ribs. He was transferred to Aberdeen’s Royal Infirmary (ARI) the next day for spinal surgery and stayed for a month before being sent back to Raigmore.

Stephen MacDonald also suffered serious injuries, breaking his leg and requiring to be treated for three days in the Intensive Care Unit at Raigmore.

Mr Fraser, the court heard, had dislocated a hip and was also taken to ARI for surgery.

Deputy advocate John Macpherson said the Crown accepted Stewart’s plea of guilty to causing injury by dangerous driving and asked for more time to compose a narrative of the case before sentencing.

Sheriff Graham Buchanan discharged the jury and thanked them for their time, adding: “This is a turn of events which means it is not now going to be necessary for you to return a verdict on any of the charges on the indictment.

“The accused has now tendered pleas of guilty – to alternative charges – which are acceptable.”

Stewart’s bail was continued and she was asked to appear again tomorrow to hear the Crown’s full narrative and summary of the case.

View our fact sheet on court reporting here

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