Driver jailed after killing motorcyclist in Bretton Way, Peterborough, in stolen car before fleeing scene ‘like a coward’

A driver who killed a motorcyclist in a stolen car before fleeing the scene like a “coward” has been jailed for more than six years.

Neville Smith (22) killed “much loved” grandad Michael Howard on August 22 after cutting across traffic in Bretton Way and colliding into him with his Saab at around 5.20pm.

Neville Smith

Neville Smith

The impact of the crash saw dad of five Mr Howard then collide into another vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Smith, of Elms Road, Harrow, who had never passed a driving test, had been tailgating a Mercedes in front of him, and the people in the car were seen moments before the fatal collision “laughing and joking”.

Smith had stolen the Saab from a dealership in Saville Road, Westwood, earlier in the day before stealing number plates from a Jeep in Thorney.

He then filled up the car at a petrol station in Market Deeping but drove off without paying.

The scene of the crash in Bretton Way. Photo: Terry Harris

The scene of the crash in Bretton Way. Photo: Terry Harris

The court was told Smith stole the car so he could go visit his 18 month-old daughter in Stamford.

He had picked up several people in the Saab, and shortly before hitting Mr Howard Smith had twice swerved out on the single carriageway looking to overtake the Mercedes in front of him before pulling back in. He was possibly only a foot away from the Mercedes before turning across the road and hitting Mr Howard (42), who had recently moved into the area from Wales.

He made “no attempt to make sure the road was clear and safe to cross”, according to Lindsay Cox, prosecuting.

After the fatal collision Smith then continued a short distance into Deerleap, Bretton, before abandoning the car and running off into a nearby woods “like a coward”, in the words of Judge Lowe.

Michael Howard

Michael Howard

Peterborough Crown Court heard that police had attended an address Smith was likely to have been at following the collision. Even though he was not there he was contacted by phone by somebody else who was at the address and he offered to hand himself in.

After being arrested he told police: “I have killed someone. I know I have to live with that.”

Smith had multiple previous convictions, including theft and dishonesty, as well as many driving conviction beginning from when he was 15.

He had been given a six week suspended sentence in January this year for aggravated vehicle taking. The sentence had been suspended for 12 months but was triggered by these latest offences.

Smith was sentenced at Peterborough Crown Court today in front of Mr Howard’s parents Alan Howard and Maggie Stimson, his sister Ann Kidd and fellow bikers who were in attendance.

Smith had pleaded guilty to all charges except death by dangerous driving at a hearing in September.

Mr Cox said the prosecution was asked at the time to consider a charge of death by careless driving but rejected this.

A trial was due to take place in February, but Mr Cox said he was made aware earlier this week that Smith wanted to plead guilty to death by dangerous driving.

Sentencing, Judge Lowe said it was clear that Mr Howard was “much loved by his family and those who knew him”.

He said Smith made a “conscious decision” to drive aggressively and dangerously, “no doubt emboldened by the fact he was in a stolen car with stolen number plates.

“He felt immune from detection.

“His deliberate decision to drive in that manner has resulted tragically in a life being extinguished. His decision has resulted in feelings of loss and emotional pain for those who grieve for Mr Howard.”

Defending Smith, Nenad Spasojevic said his decision to run away from the scene was a “consequence of blind panic. Nothing more, nothing less”.

He said Smith had given himself up to police within approximately an hour and was remorseful for his actions.

He added: “He is never going to be released from the guilt of what he has done.”

Smith was charged with: causing death by dangerous driving, aggravated vehicle taking, causing death, bilking, theft of number plates, causing death whilst uninsured, causing death whilst disqualified, failing to stop after a collision and the breach of a suspended sentence.

Judge Lowe used many of Smith’s offences to ‘aggravate’ his death by dangerous driving offence so he could issue a longer sentence of six years and four months.

Smith was also disqualified from driving for five years with an extension period of 38 months.

Judge Lowe also commended Mr Howard’s family and friends in court for the “dignity” they had shown.

Speaking after the sentencing, Mr Howard’s sister Ann said: “I do think it’s been taken seriously that a life was taken.”

Sergeant James Thorne said: “By showing off to friends Smith caused the death of an innocent, law-abiding motorcyclist.

“Instead of doing the right thing and stopping to give assistance, he chose to drive off and abandon the vehicle before fleeing.

“Mr Howard’s family have been left devastated because of his selfish and illegal behaviour. I would hope the sentence passed today will deter those who think that ‘joy riding’ is fun and harmless.

“It takes a matter of seconds for a situation to change and for the consequences to become fatal.”

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