Elderly mum blasts ‘selfish’ driver who killed daughter

Cheryl Goodenough |

Dell Daniells (left) said Jacob Johnston’s “decision to kill my daughter” destroyed so many lives.
Dell Daniells (left) said Jacob Johnston’s “decision to kill my daughter” destroyed so many lives.

Nurse Michelle Wolff was on the phone to her daughter after working late when a man deliberately drove head-on into her vehicle.

The mother-of-four died at the scene on the D’Aguilar Highway at Harlin, northwest of Brisbane – not far from the turn-off to her family farm – in December 2021.

The other driver Jacob Paul Johnston admitted in Brisbane Supreme Court on Wednesday to killing the 49-year-old when he drove across the centre of the road, deliberately crashing into her car travelling in the opposite direction.

The now 23-year-old was airlifted to hospital after the crash, then charged about three months later when police uncovered messages in which he referred to taking his own life.

Texts from about 8pm on December 1, shortly before Johnston started driving towards Brisbane, confirm the end of his relationship with a partner.

Mrs Wolff had stayed on to help at work after her shift ended, putting her in Johnston’s path at 8.47pm.

“Your decision to kill my daughter that night has destroyed so many lives,” 91-year-old Dell Daniells told Johnston in a statement read by the prosecutor.

“Shame on you for robbing her and the kids and family of her life, in a selfish act.”

Kasey Wolff (2nd right) and family members and friends
Kasey Wolff (2nd right) said she knew something terrible had happened when on the phone to her mum. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

Mrs Wolff’s daughter Kasey said she knew something terrible had happened when she heard noises while on the phone with her mother.

Then Mrs Wolff, who was using a hands-free connection, stopped talking before other voices mentioned police coming.

In one of the hardest things she had to do Kasey hung up to call her father who drove to find the crash scene, she told the court.

Johnston made a decision that ended her mother’s life, Kasey said.

“He took my mum, my best friend and my rock … and there are no words for the pain we have felt for the past 876 days without her.”

Michelle Wolff holding flowers
Michelle Wolff had been working late as a nurse before Johnston drove at her car, killing her. (MICHELLE WOLFF’S FAMILY/AAP PHOTOS)

In the same week Kasey read her mother’s eulogy she graduated as a doctor, without the one person she really wanted present.

Gavin Wolff described himself as broken, angry and sad after his wife’s death, saying he felt helpless to fix things for their four children who would be forever broken-hearted.

“The world would be a much better place if there were more Michelles here.”

Justice Paul Freeburn accepted Johnston did not intend to kill Mrs Wolff but had deliberately crossed the centre line of the road in an attempt to take his own life.

The risk of the devastating impact of his actions must have been apparent to him.

Gavin Wolff (right) with family and friends
Gavin Wolff (2nd right) described himself as broken, angry and sad after his wife’s death. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

“This was an appalling and callous act, even appreciating your intention to kill yourself,” Justice Freeburn told Johnston.

“The victim impact statements speak of your act of selfishness – it is an accurate description.”

The New Zealand national, who had a prejudicial upbringing and has no criminal or traffic history, pleaded guilty to one count each of manslaughter and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The court heard Johnston asked his ex-girlfriend to withdraw statements made to police.

Justice Freeburn sentenced Johnston to 10 years behind bars for manslaughter and a cumulative 12-month prison term for the second charge.

He will be eligible for parole in September 2030.

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