A man found guilty of killing his date in a boozy late-night speedboat crash has lost an appeal against his manslaughter conviction.
Jack Shepherd , who went on the run before his Old Bailey trial over the death of Charlotte Brown, today learned his conviction had been upheld.
Shepherd, 31, is serving a total of six and a half years for killing Charlotte, 24, who died when his boat overturned on the River Thames in 2015, and for breaching bail.
His lawyers told a Court of Appeal hearing in London that the conviction was ‘unsafe’ because he was initially interviewed as a “significant witness” rather than a suspect.
This meant Shepherd was not given his rights to be cautioned and to have a solicitor present, they argued.
Stephen Vullo QC, for Shepherd, said the court would have to decide whether the interview caused “unfairness” and therefore should not have been allowed in evidence at his trial.
But his appeal was dismissed by Sir Brian Leveson and two other senior judges on Thursday.
Sir Brian said: “When granting leave (to appeal), the single judge made the point that the appellant should not be overoptimistic as to the outcome.
“That warning was prescient. The appeal against conviction is dismissed.”The barrister said driving a boat under the influence of alcohol on the Thames in central London and speeding were both offences under bylaws of the Port of London Authority.
Mr Vullo said police knew in advance that both Shepherd and Charlotte had been drinking alcohol, and that he owned and was responsible for the boat, and therefore he should have been cautioned.
He said: “The only reason why he was not cautioned and given his rights to a solicitor on the day of the significant witness interview was due to a mistake by the police.
“What had happened is the investigation team had contacted the maritime police to ask whether offences had been committed … they were told no offences had been committed – including speeding and driving the boat with excess alcohol.”
He added: “There were clearly grounds to suspect Mr Shepherd of committing at least two bylaw offences.”
Mr Vullo said that not only was Shepherd not cautioned or offered a solicitor, but was “positively told” he was only going to be treated as a witness.
Before being locked up, the fugitive, originally from Exeter, had spent more than a year on the run and travelled to Georgia on March 21 last year.
He moved into a £168-a-month flat on the top floor of a five-storey block, setting up as a freelance web designer in the poor Saburtalo quarter.
He had gone on the run to dodge justice after Charlotte drowned after his speedboat crashed on their first date in December 2015.
After fleeing, Shepherd was jailed in his absence for six years for manslaughter by gross negligence.
Following his return from Georgia, Shepherd appeared at the Old Bailey in April and was sentenced to an additional six months for breaching bail.
He had spent 10 months living a relatively normal life, using the name Jack Grant – and boasted to new pals about dating a Georgian girl.
He finally gave himself up to police in Georgia on January 23 this year, fearing he would be “seized like an animal” after becoming the focus of a high-profile wanted campaign.
In letters and voice messages sent from jail, Shepherd – who was visited by his mum and sister – desperately tried to dodge suggestions of guilt over Charlotte’s death.
He claimed Charlotte was driving when it happened.
He also criticised a key witness who claims she saw him acting suspiciously on the night Charlotte died, accusing her of being “incorrect in her recollection”.
In January Charlotte’s sister Katie said her family felt angry at Shepherd’s claims and were “shocked” to see him “just stroll into the police station smiling and waving”.
Katie added: “It was unbelievable arrogance. While he’s been off in Georgia, he claims he went to see friends and always wanted to see the scenery there – almost like he was claiming it was a holiday.
“He’s not thinking about Charlotte, us, respect for the legal system… all he is thinking about is himself and his feelings.”
Shepherd met his victim on the dating website OkCupid.
He spent £150 on wine and food at a flash restaurant in London’s tallest building, The Shard, before the two of them took to the water.
The pair were thrown from the boat when it hit branches in the river near Wandsworth Bridge.
Shepherd was found clinging to the hull and Charlotte, from Clacton, Essex, was pulled from the water unconscious and unresponsive. She died from cold water immersion.
Charlotte’s sister, Katie, broke down in tears following Shepherd’s sentencing in April.
She said: “I feel throughout the whole process that he continues to be in denial of any kind of responsibility, as though he’s almost convinced himself he’s the victim.
“Shepherd has continued to prolong our agony, making wild accusations against our family.
“His lack of respect and decency continues to astound us.”
Charlotte’s father Graham comforted Katie as she struggled to continue reading the family statement.
He added: “Due to Shepherd’s recklessness and negligence, Charlotte isn’t here to defend herself.
“There is a sense of relief, finally, that we are going to get some justice for Charlotte.
“To us he has shown no remorse and he hasn’t taken any responsibility for the dreadful actions he caused that night.
“Charlotte would still be here today if wasn’t for Shepherd.”