Accused absent for first day of speedboat date death trial

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The trial of a web developer accused of killing his date in a speedboat accident on the Thames has begun in the defendant’s absence.

Jack Shepherd, 30, is accused of the manslaughter of 24-year-old Charlotte Brown, known as Charli.

Police had been called to reports of someone in distress near Wandsworth Bridge at around 11.45pm on December 8 2015.

Ms Brown, a business development consultant from London, died in hospital after both she and Shepherd ended up in the river.

Previously, Shepherd, of Paddington, west London, had denied Ms Brown’s manslaughter by gross negligence.

The charge alleges that on December 9 2015, he unlawfully killed Ms Brown at Butler’s Wharf, in Wandsworth.

Ms Brown’s family attended court for the first day of Shepherd’s trial, but the defendant did not appear in the dock.

Despite his absence, the trial went ahead and a jury was sworn in at the Old Bailey.

Judge Richard Marks QC told jurors: “You will see that the dock where the defendant ordinarily sits is empty.

“You must not speculate about the reason for the defendant’s absence, nor must you hold his absence against him. His absence is in no way whatsoever probative of his guilt to the charge, nor does it add anything to the prosecution case against him.

“At an earlier hearing he pleaded not guilty to the charge and you will see he is represented. His lawyers are in a position where they are able to conduct his defence.”

The trial was adjourned until Tuesday, when prosecutor Aftab Jafferjee QC will open the case.

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