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Family of couple killed in hit-and-run crash 'forgive' British Gumball driver
The family of an elderly couple who were killed when their car was involved in a hit-and-run crash with a British driver racing in the Gumball Rally said they forgave him yesterday.
In a dramatic twist at the start of Nicholas Morley's trial in Macedonia, the lawyer for the dead couple's relatives said they would not now pursue a claim for £100,000 damages.
Vladimir Chepunyoski, 67, and his wife Margit, 65, died after their Volkswagen Golf collided with Mr Morley's Porsche 911 earlier this month in Macedonia.
The prosecution claims that the 30-year-old property developer from Bowden, Cheshire, and his co-driver, Matthew McConville, 36, from Prestwich, Greater Manchester, were driving at around 100mph. The pair then fled the scene after ambulances arrived. They were arrested at the Albanian border.
In a statement read to the court, the daughter of the dead couple, Meri Gavroska, and Mr Chepunyoski's mother, Trajanka, pleaded for Mr Morley's release and claimed the elderly couple were culpable for the crash. "We ask this court to release young Nicholas and let him go back to his home. We will not demand any damages. It was ill fate that made our son and father make that fatal mistake and join the main road without stopping his vehicle.
"We have experienced a terrible tragedy, but we feel that it would be another tragedy to keep this young man in prison."
After the hearing Gjoko Tomovski, the family's lawyer, said he had been in contact with Mr Morley's millionaire brother, Oliver, to discuss the damages claim, but gave no details about whether a financial settlement had been reached.
"It is true that we first demanded damages payment, but at my suggestion the family gave up the claim. We only want to have clear consciences and we do not want to do any more unnecessary harm. Mr Morley has suffered enough."
In court, Mr Morley pleaded not guilty to "endangering traffic leading to death". He had been travelling from Greece to Albania during the British Gumball 3000 race, a competition described by its organisers as "an excuse for aristocratic delinquency".
Blagoja Daskalevski, for the prosecution, said that a police investigation had found that the Porsche had been travelling at 100mph on a stretch of road with a 37mph speed limit. Giving his first account of the collision, Mr Morley insisted he was driving within the speed limit and had fled the scene because an angry mob had gathered.
He said that he and his co-driver were not "hanging around" too much because they had to be in Tirana in Albania.
"I was driving about 80km/h but when I saw the 60km limit sign I adjusted my speed. The Golf drove into the road suddenly and I could not avoid the crash, although I tried to turn left. I could not see him on time as he did not stop at the crossroads."
He claimed that he and his passenger hailed two passing cars and helped get Mr Chepunyoski and his wife into the vehicles. He said he was in a state of shock and only decided to leave the scene of the accident as a crowd of people was gathering and shouting at him.
The court heard from only one witness, Mr Georgi Galabovski, 27, a local motorist who stopped at the nearby petrol station when the accident happened.
In his first statement during the investigation, Mr Galabovski said the Britons did not help the Chepunyoski couple but instead sped off. He then retracted his statement and said he was in shock and could not remember what happened.
The court is expected to announce its verdict on Monday(4/06/2007).