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Home   Deal   News   Article

Dover driver Tobbie Coleman jailed for causing death of young Elvington woman Emma Willis in horror crash at Waldershare

29 July 2014
by Paul Hooper

A motorist who caused the death of a young woman in a crash has never taken a single driving lesson, it has been revealed.

Tobbie Coleman, 23, had also been smoking cannabis in the hours before the Vauxhall Corsa overturned into a field on a "relatively gentle bend" in Sandwich Road, Waldershare.

The car - in which 23-year-old victim Emma Willis was a back seat passenger - smashed into a tree and overturned at 2am on Saturday, August 17 last year. She died at the scene, Canterbury Crown Court was told.

A picture of tragic Emma Willis released by her family

A picture of tragic Emma Willis released by her family

Coleman, of Ottowa Way, Dover, was jailed for 15 months after pleading guilty to causing her death by driving carelessly.

But, as he was led away to start his sentence, members of the Willis family began screaming:  "You're a disgrace. That's a b***** disgrace" and one person was bundled out of the courtroom.
Outside, court security staff were summoned as family members began crying and refusing to leave the building as Coleman's family sought refuge inside.

Prosecutor Edmund Burge told how the curve where Coleman had lost control of the vehicle was capable of being negotiated at speeds of up to 120mph.

He said Coleman claimed he was driving at between 60mph and 65mph and an expert said the tyre marks indicated a speed of 48mph when he lost control.

"Coleman was the holder of a provisional driving licence who had never taken a test and in fact had never had a driving lesson," said Mr Burge.

The spot where the car left Sandwich Road. Picture Roger Williams

The spot where the car left Sandwich Road. Picture: Roger Williams

Coleman was at the wheel of a friend's car and the group had met up before travelling in convoy along the A256.

Mr Burge said that inside the car were Kyle Thatcher in the front passenger seat and two others, including Miss Willis - of Larch Road, Elvington - in the rear.

"As he approached a relatively gentle right-hand bend, he lost control and the car began to spin and slewed across the road, mounting the kerb and began rolling before it hit the trees.

"The passenger side of the car took the full impact, the side in which Mr Thatcher and Ms Willis were sitting. Mr Thatcher received life-threatening injuries and had to be taken to hospital."

Mr Burge said other friends helped Coleman to get out of the wreckage and one of them urged him to leave the area – which he did.

He later gave himself up to police and told them he had smoked cannabis earlier in the day. But the prosecutor said toxicologists said there was no evidence it had contributed to the accident.

Emma Willis, 23, died after a car overturned in Waldershare

Emma Willis, 23, died after a car overturned in Waldershare

Mr Burge said there had been evidence that the convoy of three Corsas had been overtaking each other in the minutes before the accident and Coleman had also been on the wrong side of the road when he lost control.

Initially, Coleman claimed he had not driven on the wrong side and blamed a fault with the vehicle – but experts ruled that out.

Peter Alcock, defending, said the Willis's family loss "cannot be altered by sentence, by remorse or by words".

He added: "However, there is very real remorse from the defendant about what has happened. The accident was caused by his inexperience."

"The most sacred thing in the world is someone's child. We miss her every second of every day..." - Emma Willis' mother Amanda Hawkins

Mr Alcock added that since the crash, Coleman had been suffered from depression, anxiety and poor health.

He also revealed he had not been able to stay at his home address and had moved away.
Banning him from driving for five years, Judge Nigel Van Der Bijl said the crash was caused not by the manner of his driving, but by his inexperience.

"This wasn't you driving carelessly, but more the fact you have never received a single lesson."

After the sentence, Miss Willis's mother Amanda Hawkins paid tribute to her daughter.

She said: "When Emma was young, she used to follow us around, she had a great sense of humour even when she was little, and often tried to make you laugh.

"We were a very close family. Emma loved football from a young age. She did silly things, played practical jokes and was more like a friend.

"The most sacred thing in the world is someone's child. We miss her every second of every day."

Floral tributes left at the scene of the fatal crash in Sandwich Road, Waldershare. Picture Gary Browne

Floral tributes left at the scene of the fatal crash in Sandwich Road, Waldershare. Picture: Gary Browne

Police said Coleman's car was in convoy with two other vehicles - a green Corsa driven by Ryan Rodmell, who was also uninsured and unlicenced, and a red Corsa being driven by Charlie Morgan, who also did not have insurance.

Passenger Damien Lee was in the green Corsa and Galina Dodd was in the red Corsa.

Coleman lost control of his car and crashed into the field. Miss Willis died at the scene and another man was seriously injured.

Coleman, Morgan, Lee, Rodmell and Dodd all left the scene before police arrived, leaving Emma and the injured man in the blue Corsa.

When police arrived, Lee and Morgan were found nearby and arrested. Over the next 24 hours, all the other defendants were held.

Ryan Rodmell, 20, of John's Road, Elvington, was handed a fine and ordered to pay costs totalling £515 - as well as being disqualified from driving for a year - by magistrates in February for having no driving licence or insurance.

Damien Lee, 21, of Beech Drive, Elvington, was later convicted of obstructing a police officer.

He was handed a 21-day prison sentence - suspended for 12 months - as well as 250 hours' unpaid work and told to pay £165 costs.

Tributes left to Emma Willis in Waldershare. Picture Gary Browne

Tributes left to Emma Willis in Waldershare. Picture: Gary Browne

Charlie Morgan, 18, of Poplar Drive, Elvington, was convicted of permitting a vehicle to be used with no insurance, having no insurance and obstructing a police officer.

Magistrates gave him a 21-day prison sentence - suspended for 12 months. He was also disqualified from driving for two years, told to carry out 250 hours' unpaid work as well as pay a £100 fine and £80 victim surcharge.

Galina Dodd, 45, of St John's Road, Elvington, was jailed for 18 days for obstructing a police officer.

DS Scott Lynch, from Kent Police's serious collision investigation unit, said: "This investigation into Emma's death was initially hampered by the selfish and unlawful actions of her associates that night and caused her family and loved ones immense heartache.

"It was a tragic loss of life that serves to remind all young people, the consequences of travelling in cars with unqualified drivers at the wheel."

Did you know Emma Willis? Leave your tributes below.


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