South East Wales

'Love rival' Cardiff woman guilty over crash death

Sophie Taylor Image copyright Family photo

A woman following a "love rival" in a car chase has been found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving.

Sophie Taylor, 22, died when her car hit a block of flats in Adamsdown, Cardiff, in August 2016.

A jury found Melissa Pesticcio, 23, of Llanrumney, responsible for the death and severely injuring passenger Joshua Deguara, after a 10 day trial at Cardiff Crown Court.

She was remanded in custody and will be sentenced on Friday.

The jury heard Ms Taylor's BMW crashed while being followed by Melissa Pesticcio, 23, and her ex-boyfriend Michael Wheeler, 22, in separate cars.

Image copyright Wales News Service
Image caption Melissa Pesticcio denied causing death by dangerous driving

Matthew Cobbe, prosecuting, said Pesticcio was the lead pursuing vehicle for most of the late-night chase and urged the jury to find her guilty.

He said: "In her rear view mirror, Sophie Taylor would have seen Melissa Pesticcio for 70% of the journey.

"Sophie Taylor died and Joshua Deguara suffered life-changing injuries as a result of that pursuit she started.

"She started it, she maintained it, I invite you to surely convict her."

Pesticcio previously told the court she was "hurt" after Wheeler, her former boyfriend of two years, left her for Miss Taylor in June last year, which led to "hostility" between the two women.

Christopher Rees, defending, said Pesticcio's white BMW was "not responsible" for the "deliberate ram" by Wheeler which killed Miss Taylor.

The court heard she died after Wheeler's Vauxhall Corsa barged into hers, causing her vehicle to crash into a brick wall on Meteor Street.

Wheeler, from Rumney, has already admitted similar charges.

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Media captionDeath crash: ' They acted together in a relentless pursuit'

Acting Det Chf Insp Rob Cronick said Pesticcio and Wheeler "acted together in their relentless pursuit" of the two.

He added: "Michael Wheeler's treatment of Sophie prior to her death involved coercion and control and was indicative of systematic domestic abuse.

"Melissa Pesticcio was driven by jealousy and rage as an ex-girlfriend of Wheeler. Their behaviour leading up to the tragic incident was nothing short of despicable."

The families of Ms Taylor and Mr Deguara said "two families were broken forever" on the day of the incident.

Ms Taylor was described as "our beautiful princess" with the statement adding: "This has now become an ongoing nightmare that both our families have to endure daily."

It also described how Mr Deguara has "devastating injuries that have changed his life forever", saying: "He was very independent with a great circle of friends so had a busy social life. He enjoyed playing football and was due to start a new job just before the crash.

"This is now not the case - he is housebound now and has lost all his independence."

South Wales Police referred its handling of the incident to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

An IPCC spokeswoman said its investigation is currently suspended until the end of the criminal proceedings.

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