Fugitive jailed over crash death

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The Independent Online

A family spoke of their relief after a man who went on the run from police for more than 10 years after admitting killing a 19-year-old student following a "terrifying" car chase was finally jailed today.

Naeem Imran Rashid, 34, appeared at Nottingham Crown Court 11 years after he was originally arrested for causing the death of Leicester University student Nadeep Singh Walia.

Sentencing Rashid, formerly of Newstead Grove, Arboretum, Nottingham, to nine years and two months, His Honour Judge Michael Stokes QC, Recorder of Nottingham, said it was "one of the worst pieces of death by dangerous driving I have ever come across".

Speaking outside court, Mr Walia's sister Parminder Ahluwalia, 36, said her family were happy with the sentence that Rashid had received and that they had waited a long time for it.

While the victim's family waited for justice in the UK, Rashid is thought to have remarried, had several children and started a transport business in Pakistan.

Rashid fled the country in 2001 after pleading guilty to causing the death of Mr Walia, known to his friends as "Noddy", a first year business studies student, following a high-speed car chase through the streets of Nottingham city centre.

The court heard Rashid reached speeds of up to 100mph as he chased the Rover in which Mr Walia was travelling as a front seat passenger through the city's streets.

Rashid ignored calls from his passengers to slow down and to stop chasing the Rover and even encouraged one of them to hit the car with a metal pole as they drove up side by side with the car, at times knocking into the side of the vehicle, the court was told.

The driver of the Rover made several attempts to lose Rashid but ultimately he took a bend at speed and crashed into a wall near Wollaton Park in the city. The Peugeot 405 driven by Rashid ploughed into the back of it.

Mr Walia was killed instantly.

The court heard that Rashid was over the drink-drive limit, having 48mg of alcohol to 100ml of breath, following a night out at the Media nightclub in Nottingham.

Wearing a grey suit and purple shirt and holding a single crutch, Rashid showed no emotion as he was sentenced.

Members of his family were also in court for the sentencing. They did not speak following the hearing.

The court heard how Rashid had left the club with his three friends at 2.30am on the day in question in June 2000 They were involved in an altercation with a separate group outside the nightclub before Rashid got into the Peugeot 405. He saw a Rover pull out of a street and started to follow it.

Nigel May, prosecuting, said Mr Walia and his friends had no idea why they were being followed, while Rashid's passengers were also unaware of any reason for him choosing to chase the Rover.

The court heard how the driver of the Rover was terrified he would be run off the road by Rashid and tried to accelerate to around 70mph in an attempt to lose the Peugeot.

However he ultimately lost control on a sharp bend and crashed into the wall.

Passengers travelling in Rashid's car said they were screaming for him to stop and slow down but that he was just shouting "'Yeah boy' in a mad way", the court heard.

Rashid was arrested following the incident. He initially pleaded not guilty twice in April 2001 before changing his plea.

He pleaded guilty at Nottingham Crown Court later in 2001 but failed to appear for sentencing in August of that year.

Rashid was finally rearrested at Manchester Airport 11 years after his arrest.

In mitigation Thomas Schofield, defending, said Rashid had voluntarily returned to the UK.

Nottinghamshire Police worked with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, the British High Commission in Islamabad, the Crown Prosecution Service and Rashid's own family to bring him back to the UK.

However Judge Stokes referred to his two initial attempts to avoid blame for the fatal crash and also said that he had come back to the UK to take advantage of the NHS system rather than to serve his sentence.

He sentenced Rashid to eight-and-a-half years in prison for causing death by dangerous driving. He also handed down a consecutive sentence of eight months for absconding to Pakistan.

The court heard how Rashid had been fined £500 for affray in 1997. The fight involved an assault on a man involving fists and pieces of wood, causing cuts to the man's scalp.

Sentencing Rashid, Judge Stokes said: "It is one of the worst pieces of causing death by dangerous driving that I have come across under old law or new law.

"This was despicably bad driving over a considerable distance and considerable part of time."

He said Rashid ultimately wanted to terrify the occupants of the other vehicle with his driving.

"You were terrifying even those in your own vehicle," he told Rashid.

The crash instantly killed Mr Walia, "a young man with a bright future in front of him. An intelligent man with immense potential and a family who loved him", Judge Stokes said.

The effect on the family of the deceased young man must have been considerable, he said.

They have been "waiting and waiting for justice for 10 years and now they are going to get it".

Along with the prison sentence, Judge Stokes also imposed a five-year driving ban on Rashid.