Mechanic jailed over Porsche death


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The Independent Online

A former Kwik Fit mechanic who killed an eight-year-old boy while driving a customer's Porsche 911 was jailed for six and a half years today.

Ryan Fleming died in hospital after being hit by the sports car as he crossed the road in Maldon, Essex, on January 15 last year.

Tyre-fitter Gary Reader, 32, was jailed at Chelmsford Crown Court after admitting causing death by dangerous driving and aggravated vehicle taking last month.

Ex-Kwik Fit apprentice Timothy Smith, 19, who was the passenger in the Porsche, was jailed for 12 months after pleading guilty to aggravated vehicle taking.

Passing sentence, Judge Charles Gratwicke told Reader the consequences of his dangerous driving were "horrifying".

He said: "This was not your vehicle, it was not a vehicle that you drove frequently or were experienced with.

"Therefore there followed, as this court has heard, a course of persistent dangerous driving, with you flagrantly disregarding the rules of the road and having a complete disregard of the danger to other road users that you posed as you drove that vehicle at speed along the highway."

Reader, of Tiptree, Essex, shook his head slightly as he was led away to begin his sentence.

The judge told Smith he "encouraged and egged on" Reader, adding: "You were part of the tragic chain of events which led to such tragic and awful consequences."

As Smith was led down to the cells, one of his relatives shouted after him, "Love you, Tim".

From the other side of the courtroom a member of Ryan's family called back: "We love our Ryan more. We won't see Ryan again, but you'll get to see him again."

The owner of the silver Porsche 911 Carerra took it to the Kwik Fit garage in Maldon on the morning of Saturday January 15 last year to have the rear tyres replaced, the court heard.

Just before 2.30pm Reader announced he was going to take the sportscar for a drive, and set off with Smith in the passenger seat.

Witnesses described seeing the Porsche being driven "aggressively" and "at a stupid speed", accelerating and then braking hard. Some estimated it was travelling at over 80mph.

A woman filling up her car at a Tesco petrol station saw Smith "laughing and jumping up and down" in the passenger seat and told police she was in no doubt that the two men were "larking around".

Another witness told officers she said to herself: "They're driving like idiots, they're going to kill someone."

Prosecutor Andrew Jackson told the court: "It was no more and no less than a joyride."

Ryan, from Heybridge, Essex, his older brother Sean and a friend set out that day for their boxing club, but the instructor told them it was cancelled so they went to a McDonald's restaurant instead.

They were seen drinking a milkshake or a fizzy drink, "laughing and having fun", the court heard.

Witnesses said they saw the three young boys standing at the side of the A414 waiting to cross the road.

Moments before the collision, motorist Richard Waylen heard a loud roar from the Porsche as though the driver of the sportscar had "floored the accelerator".

"Mr Waylen immediately saw what he thought was a bag flying in the air. It wasn't - it was Ryan," Mr Jackson said.

The young boy, who was only 4ft 8ins tall, hit the Porsche's windscreen and was thrown an estimated 49 metres by the force of the collision, the court heard.

An expert estimated that the high-performance car was travelling at between 50 and 76mph when it hit Ryan, who would have died almost instantly. The speed limit on that stretch of the road was 50mph.

At the scene of the crash Reader admitted he was the driver but said he had not been going very fast. Mr Waylen told Reader he saw him "going like a bat out of hell".

When he was arrested and interviewed by police Reader claimed he took the Porsche out to get a special tool to change its tyres, but the prosecution said this implement was available at his own garage.

He told officers he was driving at 40mph, adding: "Anyone who saw me that day would have thought I was a good driver."

Smith, of Maldon, told police he felt "nervous" in the car because of Reader's speed and asked him to slow down several times.

Clare Ashcroft, mitigating for Reader, who is responsible for four young children, said: "This decision was completely out of Mr Reader's ordinary character.

"Up until that point he had been a reliable, hard-working, and trustworthy employee of Kwik Fit."

Smith, who was 18 at the time of the tragedy, was the most junior member of staff at Kwik Fit that day, the court heard.

His barrister Maria Dineen said: "Timothy Smith is truly sorry, sorry beyond words for his part in young Ryan's death."

Ryan's family said they hoped the prosecution would send a warning message to drivers that "cars are weapons".

They said in a statement: "We are all stuck for words. They say time will heal, but neither time nor reason will change the way we feel.

"Behind our smiles lie empty eyes and broken hearts. It is very hard for us to come to terms with Ryan's death.

"Justice has today been served on Gary Reader and Timothy Smith. They will have to live with their actions for the rest of their lives.

"They killed a very precious family member, a family which now lives without seeing or hearing Ryan again.

"We all have him embedded in our hearts. We still wait for Ryan to come running through the door.

"We hope this prosecution conveys a strong message to all drivers that cars are weapons and should not be taken lightly."

Inspector Keith Whiting, the senior investigating officer in the case, added: "We hope people learn from this death. It can happen to anyone driving at high speed in an area where children congregate.

"Drivers and passengers face prison when they become involved in this type of incident."