Street racer apologizes for killing Hannah Thorne, hopes sentence will bring closure to family

Brian Robert King cried as he told the court he hopes his sentence will bring justice and closure to the family of Hannah Thorne.

Friends and family share heartbreaking statements at sentencing for man charged in street-racing death

Brian Robert King sits in Harbour Grace provincial court Monday morning awaiting sentencing in the street-racing death of Hannah Thorne. (Janelle Kelly/CBC)

Brian Robert King cried Monday as he told a Newfoundland court he hopes his sentencing brings peace to the family of Hannah Thorne — the young woman he killed while street racing last year.

"I know she was loved by so many people," he said. "I hope [my sentence] provides you with some justice and closure."

At the sentencing hearing in Harbour Grace, the prosecution asked provincial court Judge Bruce Short for a jail term of three-and-a-half to four years. The defence requested two or three years.

A decision will be handed down on Dec. 12, Short said.

Thorne was killed when King crashed into her grandmother's car on July 7, 2016. He was racing with a friend, travelling at 130 km/h and passing on a solid yellow line.

King pleaded guilty in September to street racing causing death, dangerous operation of a vehicle causing bodily harm, and negligent driving.

Crown prosecutor Richard Deveau is seeking a 10-year driving ban. The defence is asking for a ban between two and five years.

'Hannah paid with her life'

Earlier in the day, a statement from Thorne's grandmother was read in a crowded courtroom, detailing how it felt to have her granddaughter die beside her.

"I held her hand, but I knew she was gone. Her fingers were blue. I will never get that image out of my mind," said Crown prosecutor Richard Deveau, who read the statement by Gertrude Thorne.

She was the driver of the car, with her granddaughter alongside her.

Gertrude Thorne was one of several people to submit or read victim impact statements at King's sentencing. About 30 family members, friends and supporters filled the Harbour Grace courtroom, most wearing purple — Hannah's favourite colour.

The Hyundai Accent in which Thorne was a passenger is in the foreground, while the Ford pickup driven by street racer King is in the background. (Provincial court)

Hannah's mother, Gail, cried as she spoke of her grief, migraines, weight loss and severe stress since her daughter was killed.

The last time she saw Hannah, she said, her daughter was excited about moving to St. John's to attend classes at the College of the North Atlantic.

Gail Thorne said King's reckless driving has cost the family dearly.

"Hannah paid with her life, and we will suffer for the rest of ours," she said.

I feel guilty every time I hug my mom … I feel guilty every time I go to school … because Hannah will never get to do these things.- Kylie Jackson

Hannah's best friend, Kylie Jackson, told the court that for a long time following her friend's death, she felt completely alone, and now feels grief about moving on, making new friends and doing things she and Hannah planned to do together.

"I feel guilty every time I hug my mom," she said. "I feel guilty every time I go to school … because Hannah will never get to do these things."

Second man fighting charges in Supreme Court

King, who is from Bay Roberts, was racing Steven Ryan Mercer of Upper Island Cove. King was driving a King Ranch model Ford F-150 pickup, with no insurance.

Just east of Denny's Pond on Route 75, in a no-passing zone near the crest of a small hill, Mercer — driving a Chevy Cobalt — passed a vehicle and pulled back into his lane. King tried to follow, but instead smashed into Gertrude and Hannah Thorne who were in a Hyundai Accent.

Hannah Thorne was looking forward to classes at the College of the North Atlantic in St. John's. (Facebook)

Hannah was killed while Gertrude was severely injured, with several broken bones. She would spend the next two months in hospital.

Mercer is fighting his charges in Supreme Court. He is also charged with street racing causing death, dangerous operation of a vehicle causing bodily harm, and negligent driving.


  • An earlier version of this story indicated Hannah Thorne's grandmother was in court. In fact, she was not and her statement was read by the Crown.
    Nov 20, 2017 1:49 PM NT