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Gillingham father John O'Donohue 'murdered in hit-and-run by Jake Austin for drug deal revenge', court told

By Sian Napier

A drug dealer deliberately ran down and killed a Gillingham father after he and a friend tried to pay for heroin and crack cocaine with bits of paper, a court heard today.

John O'Donohue, 33, died in hospital from multiple fractures to his head shortly after being hit by a car driven by 25-year-old Jake Austin, jurors were told.

Austin, formerly of Priestfield Road, Gillingham but now of Eltham, south east London, denies murdering Mr O'Donohue in Gillingham on January 23.

John O'Donohue died in hospital after being knocked down
John O'Donohue died in hospital after being knocked down

Dominic Connolly, prosecuting, told Maidstone Crown Court that Austin was a dealer in heroin and crack cocaine and when he dealt he used the name Gus.

Mr O'Donohue - also known as John Hedges - was a drug user and on January 23 he and friend Aaron Eldridge decided to get some drugs from Austin, but without paying for them, the court told.

Jurors heard they arranged to meet in Gillingham and Austin arrived in a Ford Mondeo estate car with another man.

Mr Connolly said: "Mr O'Donohue and Mr Eldridge were supplied with drugs, but tried to pay for them with a bundle containing some notes and bits of paper.

"Austin accused them of trying to rip him off."

There was a row and Mr O'Donohue and Mr Eldridge walked off along Castlemaine Avenue.

"Austin drove after them, went past them and turned round and drove his car at them," Mr Connolly said. "They jumped out of the way and started to run. Austin turned his car round and drove after them at speed.

"They ran up a grass verge and Austin drove his car up the verge. Mr Eldridge jumped out of the way. Mr O'Donohue did not."

A police cordon around the car in Castlemaine Avenue. Picture: Andy Payton
A police cordon around the car in Castlemaine Avenue. Picture: Andy Payton

Austin drove his car straight at Mr O'Donohue and caused him fatal injuries when his head hit the windscreen, Mr Connolly said.

The car carried on at speed and drove through railings and over a retaining wall before stopping, he added.

Mr Connolly added: "It is the crown's case that Austin deliberately drove his car at Mr O'Donohue in revenge for what had happened moments before."

Mr Connolly said Mr O'Donohue lived with his partner Zoe French and their children. On January 23, Mr Eldridge - also said to be a drug user - visited them.

The two men left to meet Austin and a short time later Mr Eldridge appeared at Ms French's window and told her Mr O'Donohue had been run over and "it was bad", the court heard.

He gave her a mobile phone and said: "This is Gus' phone. Tell the police everything," Mr Connolly said.

Gillingham father John O'Donohue
Gillingham father John O'Donohue

Ms French went to the scene and saw Mr O'Donohue lying in the road, tended by paramedics. She gave the phone to the police.

Mr Connolly said when Mr O'Donohue was hit, Mr Eldridge ran over to help and put him in the recovery position. He then ran to a nearby badminton club and asked for help.

He returned to the scene and saw Austin trying to unsuccessfully start his car, the prosecutor added.

Austin is then alleged to have started removing things from his car and Mr Eldridge went over and took one of his mobile phones before going to Ms French's house.

Mr O'Donohue was taken to King's College Hospital, in London, where he was confirmed dead at midnight. A post-mortem examination showed he had suffered a significant head injury.

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

Mr Connolly said while police were at the crash, they received a 999 call from Austin's mother Paula.

She said her son had rung her and said his car had been stolen and he asked her to ring the police and report the theft.

The trial continues.

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