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Home   Medway   News   Article

Gillingham hit-and-run victim John O'Donohue had been jailed for attack on disabled shopper Trudy Barnes

27 January 2014
by Medway Messenger reporter

A father who died after a hit-and-run in Gillingham had previously served a prison sentence for driving a stolen car at a disabled woman, it has emerged.

John O'Donohue - also known as John Hedges - died in hospital on Friday after being hit by a car in Castlemaine Avenue on Thursday night.

More than 10 years ago, the 32-year-old and his younger brother Jay Hedges were jailed for seven years when they drove a car at Trudy Barnes in a supermarket car park and snatched her handbag.

John O'Donohue was previously jailed for seven years

John O'Donohue was previously jailed for seven years

The pair then found her address in the bag and burgled her home.

Police raced to the house in Rainham and caught Jay Hedges as he tried to escape through a bedroom window.

Mr O'Donohue was jailed for robbery, burglary and aggravated vehicle taking.

Sentencing Jay Hedges to youth custody and Mr O'Donohue to prison, Judge Anthony Balston said: "When a robbery is committed by driving a car at the victim and thereby disabling them, it must be one of the most serious forms robbery can take.

"Not only that, the victim is already disabled and that is an aggravating feature of this case."


Man held on suspicion of murder


Maidstone Crown Court heard the victim was shopping at Tesco in Gillingham on June 9, 2003 when a Rover car stopped so close to her that her three-year-old daughter fell into bushes.

Catharine Donnelly, prosecuting, said John Hedges - then 22 - grabbed at the handbag, saying: "Thank you very much."

She wrestled to keep hold of it and was pulled along as the car moved.

Another woman shopper saw what was happening and noted the car registration.

It had been stolen the day before from Buckingham Road, Gillingham.

Scene of the hit-and-run in Gillingham. Picture Andy Payton

Scene of the hit-and-run in Gillingham. Picture: Andy Payton

Officers went straight to Mrs Barnes' home and found the stolen car on the drive. Jay Hedges, then 20, was arrested in the bedroom.

His brother was caught nearby with a watch he had stolen in the burglary. Also taken was £200 and jewellery.

Miss Donnelly said the car was a write-off. Both men were banned from driving and had a long list of convictions, at least 38 between them.

"I'm still too frightened to be on my own. It doesn't get any easier. I heard they wanted to write to me, but I'll believe it when I see it..." - victim Trudy Barnes

In a statement, the victim revealed she was on anti-depressants for anxiety and sleep problems as a result of the attack and had suffered considerable bruising.

Mrs Barnes, who had pins in her S-shaped spine to keep it straight, said she no longer went shopping on her own and was receiving counselling.

The brothers who lived in Gordon Road, Gillingham at the time, admitted robbery, burglary and aggravated vehicle-taking.

The court also heard the pair had planned to go shoplifting and committed the robbery "on the spur of the moment".

After the case, Mrs Barnes said she was happy with the sentence but was too upset to talk in detail about the ordeal.

She said: "I'm still too frightened to be on my own. It doesn't get any easier. I heard they wanted to write to me, but I'll believe it when I see it."

Police at the scene of the hit-and-run. Picture Andy Payton

Police at the scene of the hit-and-run. Picture: Andy Payton

A Kent Police spokesman said Thursday's incident was not connected in any way to the 2003 incident.

A 25-year-old man from Gillingham has been arrested on suspicion Mr O'Donohue's murder.
He was held by police in Swindon at 5.30am this morning and remains in police custody.

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