Killer driver left dy­ing mate be­hind

Waikato Times - - News - MIKE MATHER

A driver who fled po­lice be­fore crash­ing, killing a pas­sen­ger and leav­ing two oth­ers badly in­jured and then tried to flee the scene has pleaded guilty to man­slaugh­ter.

Hamil­ton man Cameron Thomas, 34, of no fixed abode, ap­peared via au­dio-video link from prison in the High Court in Hamil­ton yes­ter­day.

He pleaded guilty to a charge of caus­ing the death of Shane Ho­hepa.

The max­i­mum penalty for man­slaugh­ter is life im­pris­on­ment.

Thomas also pleaded guilty to two counts of reck­less driv­ing caus­ing in­jury, and one of fail­ing to ren­der as­sis­tance fol­low­ing a fa­tal ac­ci­dent, all re­lat­ing to the crash that hap­pened at the cor­ner of Moore and Scott Streets in Leam­ing­ton, Cam­bridge, shortly be­fore 7pm on Septem­ber 27.

That night a BMW was the sub­ject of a phone call to po­lice from a per­son con­cerned about the er­ratic way it was be­ing driven.

It was Thomas who was be­hind the wheel of that BMW.

About 6.30pm a po­lice of­fi­cer driv­ing a marked pa­trol car spot­ted it trav­el­ling east on Wordsworth St.

At the same time, Thomas spot­ted the po­lice car and hit the ac­cel­er­a­tor.

The po­lice of­fi­cer ac­ti­vated the lights and sirens and did a U-turn in a bid to stop Thomas, who was now speed­ing south down Scott St.

He zoomed through the in­ter­sec­tion with Camp­bell St - past a give way sign - with­out slow­ing down.

He did the same thing at an in­ter­sec­tion with Brown­ing St.

Then he lost con­trol. He hit a car parked on the left hand side of Scott St, and the BMW be­gan to spin, its mo­men­tum car­ry­ing it 100 me­tres fur­ther down the road and tip­ping it onto its side, fi­nally slid­ing to a stop against a sign post.

Ho­hepa, who was a pas­sen­ger in the car’s back seat, suf­fered se­vere in­juries and died at the scene.

An­other back seat pas­sen­ger, Brooke White­head, was thrown from the ve­hi­cle.

The other pas­sen­ger, Fred­er­ick Da­ley, was thrown around in­side the car, even­tu­ally land­ing on top of Ho­hepa.

Da­ley and White­head both suf­fered head in­juries.

Thomas was, for the most part, un­in­jured.

He ran from the car with­out stop­ping to check on his dead and in­jured pas­sen­gers.

Po­lice, with the as­sis­tance of nearby res­i­dents, man­aged to catch him fur­ther down the road and he was ar­rested.

Thomas was breath tested and he re­turned a re­sult of 501 mi­cro­grams of al­co­hol per litre of breath - more than twice the le­gal driv­ing limit of 250 mi­cro­grams.

He ad­mit­ted to the po­lice he had con­sumed al­co­hol and was the driver.

He told them he had failed to stop be­cause he knew that he was dis­qual­i­fied.

Thomas, who was rep­re­sented in court by bar­ris­ter Kerry Bur­roughs, was re­manded in fur­ther cus­tody by Jus­tice Sarah Katz un­til his sen­tenc­ing on De­cem­ber 12.

‘‘I don’t want to be sen­tenced in De­cem­ber,’’ Thomas told the judge.

Katz re­mained firm: ‘‘There has to be a good rea­son to put [the sen­tenc­ing] off,’’ she said.

Thomas replied: ‘‘I have back in­juries from the car ac­ci­dent, and it would hurt me to come to court and sit in those hard con­crete chairs all day.’’

Jus­tice Katz ruled the sen­tenc­ing go ahead on De­cem­ber 12, un­less there were a com­pelling rea­son for it to be ad­journed.

She also is­sued Thomas with a first strike warn­ing for se­ri­ous of­fend­ers.

Charges of driv­ing with ex­cess breath al­co­hol, fail­ing to stop for po­lice and driv­ing while dis­qual­i­fied will be with­drawn at Thomas’ sen­tenc­ing.

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