A law change means the worst killer drivers can receive a life tariff but boy racers – including the one who ploughed into ex-Hollyoaks actress Frankie Jules-Hough – are getting insultingly short sentences that leave families in agony, writes PAUL BRACCHI
- Adil Iqbal, 22, was found guilty of killing pregnant Frankie Jules-Hough, 38
- Police suspect Iqbal was planning to post clip of his dangerous driving online
- READ MORE: Moment killer driver films himself going between traffic at 123mph
Many of you will have seen footage online of a high-powered BMW weaving in and out of traffic on the M66 in Greater Manchester.
The clip, released by the police, was filmed from inside the car by the driver, 22-year-old Adil Iqbal, whose demeanour is so casual, he might have been at the controls of a video game, not a vehicle hurtling aggressively along a motorway at more than 100mph.
He is driving with just one hand on the steering wheel, the famous BMW logo clearly visible in the centre. We cannot see his other hand or the mobile phone he is holding, which is filming the car’s heart-stopping progress, zig-zagging between vehicles and overtaking them on the inside and outside lanes.
The video lasts barely 20 seconds, but could hardly be more shocking in the light of what is now known to have happened next.
Police suspect Iqbal was planning to post the clip on Facebook. After all, he had form for showing off his so-called ‘boy racing’ skills on social media.
Frankie Jules-Hough, pictured with her partner Calvin Buckley, suffered fatal brain injuries in the horror crash
Iqbal’s BMW 140i undertook a motorbike then swerved and hit a crash barrier before spinning around and ploughing into Ms Jules-Hough’s Skoda Fabia. He is pictured with a different vehicle
In the seconds before the catastrophic collision, the BMW dashboard showed speeds of between 107mph and 123mph
The craze, which has become a dangerous phenomenon on roads across the country, ended in heartbreaking, but utterly avoidable, tragedy at 3.09pm on May 13 — the moment the footage on Adil Iqbal’s phone abruptly ends and the BMW ploughed into a Skoda Fabia, which was stationary with a puncture on the hard shoulder.
In the seconds before the catastrophic collision, the BMW dashboard showed speeds of between 107mph and 123mph.
Inside the Skoda was former Hollyoaks actress Frankie Jules-Hough, 38, who was 17 weeks pregnant. She suffered unsurvivable brain injuries. Her unborn baby girl died with her two days later. Her nine-year-old elder son, Thomas Spencer, and nephew, Tobias Welby, four, were both left in a coma.
Miraculously, Frankie’s younger son, Rocky, two, was found in his baby seat in the back of the car, relatively unscathed, but crying out for his mother. Could there be a more haunting example of the random cruelty of fate, of being in the wrong place at the wrong time?
Iqbal, a fitness instructor who also taught self-defence to children at a gym, clambered uninjured out of a side window of the BMW, which belonged to his father, in the immediate aftermath of the crash.
Barely 24 hours later another ‘boy racer’ lost control of his Audi TT along the Chelsea Embankment in London and careered into 41-year-old Olivia Riley, who was walking her three dogs. The driver, Laszlo Dancs, 27, was high on drink and drugs after spending the night bingeing on vodka, beer and cocaine in a nightclub, the Old Bailey heard last week.
He was travelling at three times the 20mph speed limit, and was trying to beat a BMW and Mercedes when he spun into the victim on a pedestrian crossing island.
The law was changed last year to enable a life tariff to be handed down to the worst killer drivers. Dancs was jailed for just six years and eight months. Iqbal was jailed for just 12 years earlier this month and could be out in eight, given that most prisoners serve only two-thirds of their sentence before being released on licence.
The grieving family of Frankie Jules-Hough have called the punishment he received ‘insulting’.
The judge at Manchester Crown Court said there were a number of ‘mitigating features’ and that the defendant had showed ‘obvious remorse’. But court documents reveal Iqbal consistently refused to provide the PIN to his mobile phone — which contained the incriminating video evidence — despite repeated requests from the police, who were ultimately able to access it by other means.
Iqbal answered ‘no comment’ to all questions put to him during three interviews under caution.
The judge said Iqbal suffered post-traumatic stress Disorder (PTSD) following the crash. But nothing can compare to the visceral trauma and grief of Frankie’s family.
Her mother, Julia Vasconcellos, was on holiday with her partner in Madeira when she received a call from younger daughter Becci Welby.
‘Mum, there has been a crash,’ the trembling voice at the end of the line told her. ‘I don’t know all the details but there has been an accident.’
‘Immediately, I felt sick and fell to the floor not knowing what to do,’ Mrs Vasconcellos recalled in her impact statement to the court.
Afterwards, while desperately searching online for more information about the accident, Mrs Vasconcellos was confronted with pictures of the crash scene on Facebook.
‘I could see police cars, ambulances and helicopters… and my daughter’s car. I was in bits, traumatised, shocked,’ she said.
Adil Iqbal, 22, pleaded guilty to killing Frankie Jules-Hough, 38, (pictured) and causing serious injury to her son, Thomas, nine, in the crash which also left her four-year-old nephew, Tobias, badly hurt
Frankie Jules-Hough appeared on the soap Hollyoaks as Jess Holt from 2000 to 2001
That night, she received another phone call from Becci, who had to tell her that Frankie’s life-support machine had been switched off. ‘I was hysterical in the reception of the hotel,’ she said.
The following morning, she and her partner flew to Leeds airport, where police met them from the plane and ‘bluelighted’ them to the Royal Preston Hospital, where Frankie had been taken after the accident.
Mrs Vasconcellos described how her life has been on hold since Frankie died because of ‘this nightmare one selfish person caused’. She has not been able to return to work or drive since.
Has Iqbal read her statement? Or that of Frankie’s father, Frank Hough. After she was born by emergency caesarean, he spent the first three days of her life holding her hand in an incubator, stroking her cheek and talking to her.
‘I held Frankie’s hand when she was born. I held her hand many times throughout her life and I held her hand and kissed her beautiful face as she died,’ he said.
The judge said Iqbal had no previous convictions, but he had form. Back in 2021, Iqbal posted a video on Facebook purportedly showing him driving a Lamborghini on a road in Dubai ‘using hard acceleration up to a high speed’. He was holding the steering wheel in his right hand and a mobile phone with his left in exactly the same way as he was doing on the M66 that horrific day.
An air ambulance took Ms Jules-Hough to hospital for treatment, but she did not regain consciousness
Then in March, just two months before the fatal accident, he was warned by police after being caught in a Volkswagen Golf, which was racing an Audi RS3 in Blackburn in ‘excess of the 50mph speed limit’.
Did Iqbal — who also lost his licence temporarily after driving without insurance after passing his test — deserve a heavier sentence?
Many, not just those who knew and loved Frankie, will agree with the family’s lawyer, who said: ‘We expected the justice system to fulfil its duty and utilise its new-found powers.’ Iqbal, she said, was guilty ‘of one of the worst examples of dangerous driving I have witnessed in my 27-year career as a catastrophic injury lawyer.’
To describe what happened on the M66 as an ‘accident’ seems wrong in the circumstances. The footage on Iqbal’s phone may have lasted for only a few seconds, but he was driving like a madman for much longer before he smashed into the Skoda.
Relatives of Ms Hough launched a fundraiser to support her family, saying their lives had been ‘truly turned upside down’
His sociopathic behaviour was highlighted in forensic detail in a nine-page document presented to the court by the Crown Prosecution Service when Iqbal appeared for sentencing after admitting causing death and serious injury by dangerous driving.
The BMW was first spotted tail-gating, almost forcing other cars off the single carriageway A56 Haslingden Bypass, which merges with the A682 to become the M66, a full six minutes before the collision. Six minutes in which Iqbal could have come to his senses and taken his foot off the accelerator.
One driver — Jonathan Hoyle — noted that the rear of the car was ‘swerving from side to side’, and described Iqbal’s driving as an ‘accident waiting to happen’.
The BMW was estimated to have been travelling at 116mph.
Iqbal, from Accrington, Lancashire, who was driving a BMW, was arrested at the scene (pictured outside Manchester Crown Court in June)
One minute before the collision, another driver — Sophie Dadswell — suddenly noticed Iqbal only inches behind her rear bumper, ‘causing her to scream’ and move into the middle lane to get out of his way.
He then swerved in front of her at around 120mph, she said, and carried on passing a column of traffic on the left, or nearside, which is highly discouraged in the Highway Code.
Seconds before the collision, a third driver — Ahmed El Doma — captured the BMW on his dashcam overtaking him at 96-110mph. He said he was sure Iqbal ‘would cause an accident due to the manner of his driving’.
Indeed, Iqbal was driving so erratically and at such high speeds — with just one hand on the steering wheel — he subsequently lost control of the BMW. It spun round 180 degrees and hit the parked Skoda on the hard shoulder, where Frankie was making a call to Tommy Spencer, her former partner and Thomas’s father, to let him know she was running late.
The call connected just as the BMW hit the Skoda. ‘ ‘Hi Tom’, I heard her say before she let out a bloodcurdling scream,’ Mr Spencer agonisingly recounted in his statement.
The crash took place at 3.10pm on May 13, when two vehicles travelling southbound on the M66 in Bury collided, Greater Manchester Police said
Both he and Calvin Buckley — Frankie’s current partner — arrived at the scene shortly afterwards. ‘I could see the mangled-up cars, and that is when I knew this was seriously bad,’ Mr Buckley said.
‘I then saw Frankie lying on the floor, her body moving, reacting to the trauma… the images of my partner dying and taking her last breath are as clear now as they were that day.’
READ MORE: Moment killer driver films himself weaving between motorway traffic at 123mph seconds before killing pregnant Hollyoaks star Frankie Jules-Hough
Iqbal was questioned by police after freeing himself from the wreckage. He was ‘evasive’, they said, and was ‘trying to make out he had done nothing wrong’. He denied driving at excess speed and claimed there had been an issue with his tyres. In fact, the BMW was perfectly roadworthy.
Frankie died 36 hours later. Her unborn daughter was too young to survive without her mother. Frankie’s eldest son and nephew were placed in induced comas. They have now left hospital but require ongoing physiotherapy.
Frankie, who played Jess Holt in the Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks as a teenager, also had roles in Merseybeat, Heartbeat, Where The Heart Is and Wire In The Blood.
She was described by everyone who knew her as a ‘wonderful mother’. Her father broke down several times while giving his statement: ‘I’ve lost one of the most precious things in my life,’ he said.
On May 6, Frankie posted a picture on Facebook of her ultrasound scan and wrote: ‘My little sweet one. 17 weeks today.’ The following day, she and Mr Buckley held a ‘gender-reveal’ party after discovering she was expecting a daughter.
Iqbal, 22, was been jailed for 12 years at Minshull Street Crown Court
The couple had chosen the name Neeve the night before the crash.
This tragedy should never have happened. A growing number of young men such as Adil Iqbal, however, have been posting speeding clips on the internet.
Police had warned that the craze would have ‘devastating consequences’, and road-safety campaigners have urged social media firms to clamp down on reckless ‘boy racers’ to prevent copycats.
Iqbal lived with his family on the outskirts of Accrington, Lancs. High-performance cars such as Audis and BMWs are parked outside many of the terrace homes.
When asked about his son, his father said: ‘He is in jail. He has been dealt with by the court. So everything is sorted.’
‘My past, present and future have been crushed,’ Frankie’s partner Calvin Buckley told the court. ‘And for what? An adrenaline rush, an ego boost, a false sense of worth and selfish gratification with no regard for the safety of others.
‘Was it worth it? The answer is no, it is not.’
Additional reporting: Tim Stewart and Mark Branagan
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