Death-crash coward gets nine years

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Front Page - By WIL­LIAM SMITH

A DRUNK driver who ran over and killed a road worker and then left the scene has been jailed for nine years and branded a “coward” by a judge.

The cul­prit, Paul Joyce, of The Dell, Wood­ston, Peter­bor­ough, was also banned from driv­ing for 10 years at Le­ices­ter Crown Court yes­ter­day.

The court heard how he had drunk four pints of lager, four pints of cider and a Jack Daniels whiskey be­fore the in­ci­dent on the A1 on Fe­bru­ary 12, which killed High­ways Agency worker Ernest Mathers, a 46-year-old grand­fa­ther from Don­caster.

Mr Mathers, a banks­man, was thrown 50m through the air from the im­pact and suf­fered mul­ti­ple in­juries, in­clud­ing a com­pletely sev­ered leg.

Wear­ing high vis­i­bil­ity cloth­ing, a re­flec­tive har­ness and LED lights, he been di­rect­ing lor­ries bring­ing Tar­mac to resur­face a stretch of road at Great Caster­ton, near Stam­ford.

On the evening of Fe­bru­ary 12, for­mer AA pa­trol driver Joyce – who has a pre­vi­ous con­vic­tion for driv­ing with ex­cess al­co­hol in 2002 – had vis­ited a friend at RAF Cottes­more, in­tend­ing to stay overnight.

How­ever, he changed his mind and tried to drive his Audi A4 home at 1.15am. He had been drink­ing be­fore at­tend­ing a party, tak­ing with him one­and-a-half bot­tles of vodka, al­though it is not known how much of that was con­sumed.

Driv­ing with­out head­lights on, Joyce al­most col­lided into the exit bar­rier leav­ing the RAF base and crashed in Main Street, at nearby Greetham, writ­ing off a Fiat car, dam­ag­ing a van and caus­ing dam­age to a wall and door of Oak House Res­i­den­tial Home.

He per­suaded a lorry driver to drop him off half a mile away at a round­about con­nect­ing with the A1, near a six-mile stretch of the north­bound A1, where the High­ways Agency were work­ing.

He was dropped off at 1.45am and then stole a road­works van and drove off at be­tween 80 and 100 mph, trav­el­ling the wrong way on the car­riage­way.

Three lor­ries were sta­tion­ary, wait­ing to un­load Tar­mac and Joyce failed to stop in time, col­lid­ing with the door and side of one.

His car span into the cen­tral reser­va­tion and hit Mr Mathers, at be­tween 48 and 58mph.

The van then hit a sec­ond lorry, col­lided with Mr Mathers again and its en­gine burst into flames.

Joyce was res­cued by Mr Mathers’ work­mates, who ini­tially thought he was a fel­low road­worker.

Af­ter help­ing him, they went to Mr Mathers and Joyce fled the scene “like a coward”, said Judge Simon Ham­mond.

He later caught a taxi and went to his girl­friend’s home in Or­ton Gold­hay, Peter­bor­ough, where he was ar­rested the next day.

A blood test back cal­cu­la­tion re­vealed he would have had about 240 mil­ligrammes of al­co­hol in 100 millil­itres of blood. The limit is 80 mil­ligrammes.

At an ear­lier hear­ing, Joyce had ad­mit­ted ag­gra­vated ve­hi­cle tak­ing of a Vaux­hall As­tra van, which was driven dan­ger­ously and caused the death of Mr Mathers.

He also ad­mit­ted driv­ing when un­fit through drink.

Yes­ter­day, Philip Gibbs, mit­i­gat­ing for Joyce, said: “He was plan­ning to stay overnight and doesn’t know why he changed his plan.

“Drink ut­terly de­railed his think­ing process. Like many in this court he can’t un­der­stand his ac­tions and doesn’t seek to de­fend them.”

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