Cross Gates: Family fight back tears in heartbreaking tributes to Leeds woman killed in horror crash

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
The devastated family of horror crash victim Alice Birchall have told how they had to watch her “take her last breath” as they turned off her life support machine.

The 22-year-old died after her Nissan Juke was struck head-on by a high-powered Audi that was travelling at around 100mph on Manston Lane in Cross Gates in June 2022. The Audi driver, Jonathon Hopkinson, was jailed for eight years at Leeds Crown Court today for causing her death by dangerous driving. He was over the drink-drive limit at the time.

Alice died in hospital two days later. During today’s hearing, statements were read out by Alice’s family. Her aunty, Deborah Horsfall described her niece as being “a strong independent young woman, beautiful both inside and out” who was “always smiling and always happy”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

She said they even joked and used to call her Miss Daisy, because of the careful way she would drive.

The family of Alice Birchall (pictured) spoke of their devastation of having to switch off her life-support machine. (pic by WYP) The family of Alice Birchall (pictured) spoke of their devastation of having to switch off her life-support machine. (pic by WYP)
The family of Alice Birchall (pictured) spoke of their devastation of having to switch off her life-support machine. (pic by WYP) | WYP

She told the court: “The shock of seeing Alice's bruised and battered body lying on a hospital bed will never leave me. The trauma and pain over the next three days have a massive emotional impact on me, and the memory of her boyfriend refusing to leave her side, holding her hand. 

“Nobody had any words for how they were feeling. To have to make the decision to switch off the machine that was keeping her her alive and watch her take her last breath was devastating. The senseless death of Alice has left a gaping hole in our lives. We all miss her beautiful face.”

Alice’s younger sister Amy, fighting back tears, also read out a statement. She said: “I went to her for everything, advice on friendship, on boys and how to look after ourselves.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“She was my guardian, she was my sister, she was my best friend. She is more than an inspiration to me and others.”

The court heard that both Alice and Amy had lost their parents at an early age, and had endured years of torment because of their alcoholic mother.

Amy added: "I find it a sick, twisted irony that my sister was killed by a drink driver. I have never felt more lost. This has completely broken me. It broke so many people."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Amy had been on her way home from work when the Audi Q3 RS ploughed into her, causing catastrophic and unsurvivable injuries. Footage from several CCTV cameras estimated that Hopkinson was driving in excess of 100mph, having left an Italian restaurant with his eight-year-old daughter minutes prior.

Both he and his daughter suffered serious injuries in the smash.

Hopkinson (pictured) was jailed for eight years today. (pic by WYP)Hopkinson (pictured) was jailed for eight years today. (pic by WYP)
Hopkinson (pictured) was jailed for eight years today. (pic by WYP) | WYP

Despite her tough upbringing, Alice graduated from university and was due to start her dream job, working in fine jewellery in York, two weeks after her death.

Judge Tom, Bayliss KC, who jailed Hopkinson, said of Alice: “She was a much-loved, independent, resilient and determined young woman. With her sister, they had experienced and overcome great personal tragedy and adversity.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Constable Lindsey Pickles of West Yorkshire Police’s Major Collision Enquiry Team (MCET) said: “By taking to the wheel while over limit that night, Hopkinson’s actions caused the death of one young woman and untold devastation to her friend and family.  He also caused the serious injury of a child.  

“Our thoughts go out to Alice’s family. Nothing will bring her back but I hope the sentence handed down today will bring some closure as well as serving as a message to those who drive under the influence of drink or drugs.”