A coroner has ruled 'all responsibility' for the death of fun-loving Hobart woman Vanessa Hayward rests with the unlicensed driver who sped through a stop sign.
A coroner has ruled 'all responsibility' for the death of fun-loving Hobart woman Vanessa Hayward rests with the unlicensed driver who sped through a stop sign.

Fatal crash driver’s deadly path of destruction

THE unlicensed driver responsible for killing Hobart woman Vanessa Claire Hayward in a horror hit-and-run crash was consistently travelling up to 40km/h over the speed limit with his headlights turned off and three defective tyres, a coroner has found.

Zach James Muir-Bennett was sentenced to five years in prison in February 2018 after pleading guilty to causing Ms Hayward's death by dangerous driving on June 22, 2017.

Coroner Simon Cooper's findings into the death were published on Wednesday.

Mr Cooper said Muir-Bennett's unroadworthy Mitsubishi Magna sedan smashed into the driver's side door of Ms Hayward's Commodore after he "accelerated heavily" through a "clearly visible stop sign" at the intersection of Roope and Pirie streets in New Town.

Ms Hayward, 42, had to be cut from the vehicle before being rushed to the Royal Hobart Hospital, where she died shortly after her arrival.

Vanessa Hayward.
Vanessa Hayward.

An autopsy found that Ms Hayward had suffered massive injuries to the right side of her chest, including lacerated lungs, heart and liver.

Forensic pathologist Dr Christopher Hamilton Lawrence described the injuries as "unsurvivable".

Mr Cooper said Ms Hayward had taken two friends to New Town Kmart to buy bedding and was on her way back to their house in South Hobart at the time of the crash.

One of her passengers described her driving as "fine".

He said she drove in accordance with the speed limit and was wearing a seat belt.

At the same time, Muir-Bennett was driving through the area with a friend after drinking at a Moonah hotel.

"He travelled consistently at over the speed limit of 50 km/h," Mr Cooper said in his findings.

A tribute left at the scene of the fatal car crash. Picture: MATHEW FARRELL
A tribute left at the scene of the fatal car crash. Picture: MATHEW FARRELL

"Each time he approached intersections he turned the lights off - apparently considering

this was a mechanism by which he could detect the approach of other vehicles.

"While travelling on the incorrect side of Roope Street, in an easterly direction, he accelerated heavily as he approached the intersection with Pirie Street.

"He then turned the vehicle's headlights off, braked, turned the headlights back on and again accelerated heavily into the intersection, through a clearly visible stop sign before smashing into the driver's side door of Ms Hayward's Commodore.

"All responsibility for her death rests with Muir-Bennett."

Crash investigators later determined that at the moment of collision the Magna was travelling at between 77 and 80 km/h.

Both Muir-Bennett and his passenger fled the scene without checking on the welfare of Ms Hayward or either of her passengers.

They were arrested days later after an extensive manhunt.

Mr Cooper made no recommendations but conveyed his sincere condolences to the family and loved ones of Ms Hayward.

Originally published as Fatal crash driver's deadly path of destruction



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