VIDEO: Ram raider high on cocaine jailed for killing popular Whittlesey father of two in horror crash
A ram raider who was high on cocaine killed a popular Whittlesey father and rugby player when he crashed into him head on as he sped away from the botched smash-and-grab raid.
Mark Collin (51) of Stonald Avenue, Whittlesey died at the scene of the crash on the B1040 near his home town at just after 4am on August 1 last year.
Father of two Mark - a popular member of the Peterborough Rugby Club - was in his Nissan Primera which was struck by the speeding, stolen Audi S3 being driven by Dale Smith.
Smith (30), of Front Road, Murrow, Wisbech was traveling at 84 mph when he lost control of the car - which he was carrying three accomplices from the botched raid at the Co-op in Crowland just minutes before.
He had taken 'a significant amount of cocaine' just before the raid.
Smith appeared at Peterborough Crown Court today (Monday) when he was jailed for 12 years.
A number of Mr Collin's family and friends were in the public gallery for the hearing today.
In a statement to the court Natalie Collin, Mark's wife said learning of the tragic incident was 'the most heart wrenching day of our lives,' describing 'a constant roller coaster of emotions'
Following the fatal collision Smith and the rest of the gang fled the scene 'like cowards' - but he was found in Whittlesey covered in muddy water a few hours later, and arrested.While he made no comment in police interview, officers reported hearing him retching after he was told Mr Collin had died - and today he pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving, causing death whilst driving a vehicle otherwise than in accordance with his driving licence, aggravated vehicle taking, burglary (non-dwelling) and handling stolen goods.
Judge Matthew Lowe, sentencing, said: "No sentence I pass should be taken in any way as an attempt to place a value on Mark Collin. His life was priceless."
He added: "Mark Collin was 51 when he died. It is apparent that he was a much loved husband, father, son, brother and friend. His driving was impeccable that morning, and played absolutely no part in the collision - that was wholly down to the way you (Smith) chose to drive that morning.
"The contents of Natalie Collin's statement are heartbreaking - those who knew and loved Mark effectively have a life sentence."
Judge Lowe also praised Mr Collin's family and friends, for their dignity through the hearing, as well as giving credit to the 'thorough and professional investigation' carried out by Cambridgeshire police.'
Smith appeared in court via video link from prison, wearing a jail-issue grey tracksuit.
Marti Blair, prosecuting, told the court the events began at 2.38am on August 1, when two men were seen on CCTV at Crowland Cranes stealing strops - a large type of strapping.
She said: "Just after 4am three people including the defendant attempted to steal an ATM from the Co-op in West Street, Crowland.
"CCTV shows three men arrive in two stolen vehicles - a Toyota Hilux and an Audi S3.
"The Hilux was stolen in a burglary in Holme on July 28, and the Audi stolen in a burglary in Collyweston on July 21.
"Both vehicles had cloned number plates.
"The defendant was seen driving the Hilux initially - he reversed at speed into the front of the Co-op, moved forwards and reversed again, causing the front of the store to be destroyed.
"Entry was forced into the store, when the strops were placed around the ATM. The defendant drove forward and pulled the machine out into the road.
"All the men tried to get the machine into the Audi - but by this time local residents were looking out of the windows.
"The men abandoned the machine in the centre of the road. The Toyota was also abandoned, as the men entered the Audi and drove off. The defendant was in the drivers' seat."
Police arrived at the scene shortly afterwards, but the gang had made its escape.
Less than 15 minutes later, the Audi collided with Mr Collins' Nissan, just a mile from Whittlesey.
Miss Blair said the crash happened at 4.18am, and a number of witnesses living on the B1040 heard the bank.
Warren Harris said he had heard the screeching of tyres and bang. He want out to find the wreckage from the crash, and tried to help Mr Collin, but was unable to, and called police.
Miss Blair said a crash investigator had examined CCTV taken from near the crash scene, and the estimated speed of the Audi was 84mph.
Miss Blair said that while the road has a speed limit of 60mph, the average speed of cars along the road was just 41mph, with the majority of motorists driving at 49mph or slower.
She said the road had a number of undulations, which would adversely affect the handling of the Audi at speed, and there was a series of warning signs by the side of the road, as well as the word 'Slow' written on the tarmac itself.
Smith and the other ram-raiders fled on foot, but Mr Harris' wife spotted a man in Whittlesey town centre later in the afternoon looking 'out of place.'
She said he was wearing socks but no shoes, torn jeans and his clothing was wet and muddy.
She called her husband who called police.
When officers arrived, Smith said he was waiting for a taxi - but the officers noted he was limping and arrested him on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving.
Miss Blaid said: "When he was arrested he said 'bloody hell' and started shaking. He was also crying in the back of the police van.
"He was retching at the police station, as if he was trying to be violently sick, and was asking how long he would get in prison."
Judge Lowe said he was not sure if it was 'tears of remorse or self pity,' as in police interview, rather than confess to the crime, he made no comment.
He told officers he had taken cocaine three days previously, but when officers looked at his blood, it came back with a reading of 16mg of cocaine - the legal limit is 10mg.
The officers carried out calculations, which showed he would have taken a significant amount of cocaine just before the ram raid.
An examination of the Audi showed the driver had not been wearing his seatbelt - and Smith and no injuries which would be associated with the seatbelt.
Miss Blair also told the court Smith had a significant criminal history - including for dangerous driving.
Judge Lowe described his record as 'horrendous' and 'appalling'
He had been released from that prison sentence on licence just two months before the latest incident.
He has since been recalled to jail as a result.
Miss Blair also told the court it was not thought Smith had ever held a legal driving licence.
The court was told the best mitigation for Smith, a father of three, was his guilty plea, which showed his remorse.
Smith was given a nine year sentence for causing death by dangerous driving and a three year sentence for the burglary, to be served consecutively.
He was given a further six month sentence for handling stolen goods, a 12 month sentence for aggravated vehicle taking and a 12 month sentence for causing death while uninsured and unlicensed, to be served concurrently.
He was also given a 10 year driving disqualification, with a six year extension. The disqualification means when Smith is released at the half way point of his custodial sentence - after six years - he will be banned from driving for 10 years.