Couple killed in suspected drag race incident

A Catholic couple from St Mary's in Sydney's west, who had recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, were killed instantly when their car was struck by two other cars which police suspect were involved in a drag race.

The Daily Telegraph reports that Allan Howle, 71, and his wife Judith, 70 - parents of seven, grandparents of 15 - both pillars of the community at their local Catholic church were killed just minutes from their home when their car was struck by two others on the Great Western Highway. Police suspect the vehicles were involved in an illegal street race just before 6.30pm.

The couple had been driving along the highway and were hit when they tried to turn right. Mr Howle was thrown from the car, and Mrs Howle, the driver, was trapped in the wreckage, just a few hundred metres from the band club. Both died at the scene.

Police said they suspected the Commodores were racing side by side with a third car, a blue Mazda. Police appealed to the driver of the Mazda, seen on the same road at the time of the crash, to contact them.

He went to Penrith police station after seeing a TV appeal for him to come forward. He was interviewed by crash investigators. Police said later that it did not appear the Mazda was involved in the incident.

A man taken by stretcher from the crash scene was wearing a red Holden Racing Team jacket. It is unclear what his involvement in the incident may have been.

The two Commodore drivers suffered only minor injuries.

One of the couple's three sons, David, said the family was shocked. "You don't like to see them taken like that," he said.

David Howle described his mother as "an angel" who would regularly clean the local church as part of her volunteer service with the Catholic Church.

"We were a bit of a handful. She's a saint. She only turned 70 the other week and we had a bit of a get-together for her."

Asked if it was confirmed that it was a street race, Mr Howles said if it was his family would be "ropeable".

The family moved to St Marys in the early 1960s. Mr Howle worked for Australia Post, and later bought a local newsagency.

He became president of one of the local social hubs, the St Marys Band Club, a registered club. He held the position until this year.

Martin Howle, a nephew of the couple, contacted The Daily Telegraph and called for the three street racers involved in the crash to be charged with murder.

"They knew the risks," he said.

Father Bob Bossini from Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church, St Marys said the Howle's, who had been at mass six hours before they died, were inseparable.

"If there is any relief in it, both died together," he said.

"If Alan didn't turn up for Mass, I always asked Judy how he was because you didn't see one without expecting to see the other.

Mr Howle helped raise money through the Band Club to set up a youth centre attached to the church which is open five days a week for local teenagers.

He and his wife spent hours on Friday cleaning the church before heading down the road to the Band Club.

"You always knew if he wasn't here, or at home having dinner with his wife, he would be at the church," club general manager Marlene Shipley said.

"They were very family oriented, he was very proud of his family, every family function was held here.

To think this has happened virtually on the doorstep, but it could have been anyone in their car."

Evil game claims innocent lives (Daily Telegraph, 31/7/07)
Drag-crash couple had seven kids (Adelaide Now, 31/7/07)
After 50 years together, couple wiped out in an instant (News.com.au, 31/7/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church, St Mary's

31 Jul 2007