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Dealer Jake Austin admits manslaughter but denies murder of John O'Donohue in hit-and-run in Gillingham

A drug dealer accused of a hit-and-run murder has today admitted manslaughter.

Jake Austin entered the plea after giving evidence at his trial at Maidstone Crown Court.

The heroin and crack cocaine dealer earlier accepted he drove dangerously but denied he intended to hit John O’Donohue.

John O'Donohue died in hospital after being knocked down

Austin, 25, claimed he did not know he had struck the 33-year-old victim until he got out of his crashed car and saw him lying on the ground.

Realising he was “in big trouble”, he said he then fled in panic from the scene in Gillingham.

“I was horrified,” he said. “I thought somewhere along the line I am responsible for this guy being next to my car.

“I was thinking this is very serious, I am going to be in a lot of trouble. I thought other people around would help him.”

The jury has heard Mr O’Donohue - also known as John Hedges - was a drug user and he and friend Aaron Eldridge decided to rob Austin.

Police at the scene in Castlemaine Avenue, Gillingham, in January

They arranged to meet and Austin ­- known as Guez or G - arrived in his automatic Ford Mondeo estate car with another man.

After a row in which Austin accused them of ripping him off, they walked off along Castlemaine Avenue.

Austin drove after them and ended up hitting Mr O’Donohue as he smashed through railings. He died from serious head injuries.

Austin, formerly of Priestfield Road, Gillingham, now of Eltham, south east London, denies murder.

Giving evidence, he said he had been selling drugs for a year. He first supplied them “on foot” and then did so from his car after buying it in December.

Police near the scene of a hit and run in January

Mr Eldridge, he said, had previously tried to con him by paying for drugs with a counterfeit £5 note.

After receiving a call from Mr Eldridge on January 23 this year wanting crack cocaine and heroin they arranged to meet at Cypress Court flats in Grange Road.

“I didn’t have any weapons in my car or on my person,” he told the jury. “I don’t carry weapons.”

He said: “It was not a crime of murder. I didn’t intend to kill him. I didn’t intend my vehicle to make any contact. I feel I have taken a life when I was not intending to.

“If I could turn the clock back it would be different.”

The jury is expected to retire tomorrow.

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