A man has been jailed for seven-and-a-half years after mowing down his girlfriend while drink driving.
The 35-year-old builder was found to be more than three times the legal drink driving limit following the accident in which he ran her over as she walked home.
He drove away from the scene of the accident, in Highbridge, Somerset, and proceeded to her house to continue looking for her, despite leaving her fatally injured on the roadside.
He then left her a note at her house saying: “I love you, but we’re done. Where are you?”
A cyclist discovered the woman’s body and police arrested the defendant less than two hours later.
Bristol Crown Court heard that the man had been in an argument with the woman prior to the incident on January 19. They had then gone on to her workplace – Vinnies Bar in Burnham-on-Sea.
According to friends, the woman had been planning to end the relationship but the couple appeared to have reconciled before going their separate ways.
Judge Peter Blair QC told the man: “[The victim] who presumably had arrived in her own car made the proper decision not to drink and drive.
“She set off home on foot, which is a distance of about two miles. You had been drinking heavily.
“There can be no possible doubt to you that you had drunk far too much to drive.”
He went on to add that the father-of-three was “well aware” that drink driving was a criminal offence as he had a conviction for the offence 15 years previously.
Members of the public in the bar that night had, in fact, challenged the man about driving that evening, and had done the same a week before when he drove his girlfriend’s car while under the influence.
The court heard that the man drove off in his white van having been escorted from the pub premises due to his behaviour. He was seen driving erratically both before and after the accident.
CCTV footage shows his victim walking down the road at 2.05am with the van shown on the same stretch just a few minutes later, around the time of the collision, and again at 2.08am heading in the direction of his girlfriend’s home.
He then drove to a friend’s house, appearing to be looking for her and calling her name before returning to her house where he was subsequently arrested at 4am.
Roads in the area have a speed limit of 30mph, but analysis showed that the defendant was driving at 38-41mph prior to the crash, and 41-48mph after.
Following his arrest, a blood alcohol test showed the man to have 268mg alcohol per 100ml blood. The legal limit is 80mg.
The man denied murder but admitted causing death by dangerous driving.
Adam Vaitlingam QC, prosecuting, said the court accepted his pleas as a police collision report did not support the crash being a “deliberate act.”
He explained that the woman had been seen walking along the pavement and appeared to be sober and coherent on leaving the venue at 1.30am.
“About 10 minutes or so later, the defendant was escorted out of the bar because of his behaviour,” Mr Vaitilingam told the court.
“He got into his van and drove off and seemed to be looking for [the woman].”
A report by PC Joseph Sample of Avon & Somerset Police suggested that the woman was in the road when struck by the van.
“It is obviously speculation but it is a matter we have to consider as to whether she saw the vehicle coming from 100 metres or so off and made her way into the carriageway to attract his attention,” Mr Vaitilingam said.
“She might have been in the centre of the road or to one side of it.
“In the dark clothing she was wearing, it would have been difficult for any driver to have seen her.
“Given the excess speed that the defendant was driving at, there wouldn’t have been long for him to react to her presence in the road.
“He failed to stop when he must have been aware that there had been some type of collision.”
The woman suffered injuries to both her legs and a fatal injury, according to a post-mortem examination.
The van also suffered extensive damage including a broken headlamp, smashed windscreen, dents, and scratches.
The defendant was later found fully dressed and incoherent in bed at the woman’s home, where he was then arrested.
“He asked police what had happened,” Mr Vaitilingam said.
Mitigating, Patrick Mason said that his client was remorseful, and psychiatrists have said he may never remember the events of that night.
Judge Blair went on to add: “[Your victim] was 34 when you killed her by the dangerous driving of your van.
“You had been in a short-term relationship with her from about Christmas last year before her life was brought to a terrible and sudden end due to your dangerous driving.”
“Your driving was so dangerous that you collided with her and the result was devastating,”
“This involved a deliberate course of driving having consumed substantial amounts of alcohol, leading to gross impairment.”
After admitting drink driving and causing death by dangerous driving, Judge Blair sentenced the man to seven years and six months in prison and banned him from driving for four years upon his release.
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