It looked like a case of three mates in a drag race that turned fatal.
And for two years Duane Justin Lindsey faced charges of culpable driving over the death of friend Nathan Russell.
But while police called it a drag race – even all the way to trial – they weren’t racing.
In fact, Mr Russell was chasing Lindsey at high speed while Lindsey tried to escape with his partner and baby daughter in the back seat.
More than two years after that terrifying night, Lindsey has been jailed for a year for reckless driving offences.
However, Victorian County Court Judge Graeme Hicks said all charges alleging that Lindsey was responsible for Russell’s death had been dropped.
“I am not sentencing you in any way for causing the death of the deceased, Nathan Russell,” Judge Hicks told Lindsey on Wednesday.
Lindsey, 30, had taken his partner and three-month-old daughter to meet Russell’s brother Leif alone in a Kmart car park in Campbellfield late on November 24, 2011.
When Nathan Russell turned up, an argument escalated into a car chase, with the Russell brothers chasing Lindsey and his family in separate cars.
It ended when Nathan Russell’s car collided with Lindsey’s, sending Mr Russell into a fatal spin at 110 km/h.
Police charged Lindsey with culpable driving the next day.
The charge hung over his head for more than two years until the start of his trial on March 31 when the prosecution significantly changed its case.
Instead, Lindsey was charged with reckless conduct endangering life after nearly hitting two road workers during the chase.
“Considering you had your partner and your very young child with you, I am of the view it would be extremely unlikely that you would have engaged in this driving conduct if you were not pursued,” Judge Hicks said.
When police changed the charges Lindsey pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity, Judge Hicks said.
He sentenced Lindsey to 12 months in jail, with a six month non-parole period.
Lindsey has already served four months in prison.