Published: 14:50, 04 August 2017
An uninsured and unlicensed driver with just seven lessons under his belt killed a pedestrian in a hit-and-run crash on Christmas Eve, a court heard.
Jamie Burchell-Reeves, 23, got behind the wheel of a black Vauxhall Corsa on December 24 last year and struck Liam Rogerson, 28, on a pedestrian crossing at 6.07pm in Crossways Boulevard, Greenhithe, despite traffic having stopped at a red light.
The victim, who had been making his way to his sister’s home in nearby Charles Street, was sent flying into the air, some 20 metres down the carriageway, suffering severe head injuries, and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Burchell-Reeves, of Wakefield Road, Greenhithe, was sentenced at Woolwich Crown Court today having admitted at a previous hearing to failing to stop after a road accident, failing to report the accident, causing death by dangerous driving, and being uninsured and unlicensed at the time of the accident.
The incident also saw him in breach of six suspended sentences issued at Central Kent Magistrates Court for previous offences on November 14, 2015, including 30-day jail terms for battery and breaching a non-molestation order, which had been suspended for 18 months.
In total he was handed a four-and-a-half year jail term, with half to be served before he is released on licence, and a five-and-a-quarter year driving ban. He will also have to take an extended driving test before he is able to gain a licence.
Burchell-Reeves had been in the car with girlfriend Sophie Jane Clarke, who owned the vehicle, and her friend Paige Stilwell, at the time of the accident, having just been on a brief visit to Bluewater.
Witness statements from motorists read out in court said Burchell-Reeves was “driving like an idiot” and at a speed which “stood out from all the other cars”.
Another witness said he was going so fast that it “made her car rock” as it whizzed past.
Both of his passengers had told him to slow down in the moments leading up to the incident, but he did not listen.
While it is not thought that he was breaking the 50mph speed limit when he hit Liam, he has since acknowledged that he was driving too fast, having just come off a roundabout.
He was described as “nervous and panicked” in the immediate aftermath of the accident, unsure of what had happened.
After leaving the scene, he swapped seats with his girlfriend at Dartford’s Hilton Hotel.
Clarke, 20, of Medway Road, Crayford, was charged with dangerous driving between there and Medway Road in Crayford, having dropped her friend at home and not telling police about the crash.
She and Burchell-Reeves were subsequently arrested as they prepared to make their way to Bexley police station, with her mother having called the police to report the accident.
Clarke was also charged for allowing her boyfriend to use the car without a licence or insurance, for which she pleaded guilty and was given an eight-week sentence, suspended for 12 months, and banned from driving for a year, during a hearing at Medway Magistrates Court in June.
Clarke was also given a three-month curfew, ordered to take part in a 10-day rehabilitation programme and fined £300 for allowing Burchell-Reeves to use the vehicle.
Burchell-Reeves, who has been on sleeping tablets and anti-depressants in recent months, was initially silent during police interview on Christmas Day but went on to say: “If I could take his life back and give him mine, I would. It was an accident.”
He told officers that he did not stop because he was scared and “did not know what to do”, adding that he “wasn’t a murderer”.
Friends and family in the public gallery sobbed as his statements were read out in court.
Burchell-Reeves, who has a young daughter and was described by family as “a great dad”, covered his face with his hands in the dock as Liam Rogerson’s father, William, read out a harrowing witness statement about the impact of losing his eldest son.
He said: “It is a horror I still replay in my mind. I still have nightmares about it.
“Liam had so much to live for. I find it impossible to celebrate anything or enjoy myself. I feel like my very soul has gone cold.
“Christmas can never be the same again for me. It will always be associated with Liam’s death.”
Liam had come all the way down from his home near Sunderland with younger brother Niall to stay with sister Faye and enjoy the festive season.
They arrived in Kent at about 3pm and Liam was staying at the Campanile Hotel, just down the road from where he died.
Once his sister had finished her shift at Bluewater at 4.30pm, Liam began making plans to get to hers for around 6pm, letting her know by phone.
She messaged him when he did not show up on time, but received no answer, so decided to try giving him a call, only for a stranger attending to him to answer the phone to tell her what had happened.
"Liam did not deserve to be left to die in the street but Burchell-Reeves chose to speed away rather than help a man he had seriously injured" - Police constable Guy Ditcher
His death came 16 years after he fractured his skull while saving friend Alistair Johnson from the path of a lorry as they walked home from school in Houghton-le-Spring, County Durham.
Just 12 years old at the time, he was taken to hospital by air ambulance and he remained there for some time. His friend had been struck by a glancing blow from the lorry rather than a full-on collision.
Liam’s parents William and Sandra, brother Niall, sister Faye, her fiancee Chris Rose, and his parents Bob and Vivian, were among those in court.
Speaking after the hearing, Faye, 24, said: “I really hoped it would be longer because as it stands he’s going to get out of prison at the same age as Liam was, but he will be able to continue his life and Liam can’t.
“He gets another chance afterwards and I don’t think he deserves that chance.
“She (Sophie Jane Clarke) should have been sentenced here as well. If she hadn’t let him drive in the first place we wouldn’t have this situation.”
Mum Sandra added: “The only people they are sorry for are themselves.”
Police Constable Guy Ditcher, from Kent Police’s Serious Collision Investigation Unit, said: "The victim was deeply loved by his family and friends and Burchell-Reeves needlessly robbed him of his life.
"He did not deserve to be left to die in the street but Burchell-Reeves chose to speed away rather than help a man he had seriously injured.
"There are no words to adequately sum up his actions.
"Nothing can put right these wrongs but I hope that Liam’s family can take some comfort from the fact he has now gone through the justice system and received a custodial sentence."
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