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Michael Whitehead jailed for leaving biker Robin Graham seriously injured after crash at Punch Tavern near Canterbury

A motorcyclist was left with life-changing injuries after his body was slammed so hard against a car it left the vehicle undriveable.

Robin Graham was catapulted from his bike as he broke hard to avoid a Fiat turning in front of him to enter the Punch Tavern, near Sturry, Canterbury.

The car driver, Michael Whitehead, screamed "I've killed him", as Mr Graham lay seriously injured, a number of his bones broken and both arms dislocated.

Michael Whitehead. Photo: Kent Police (15332821)
Michael Whitehead. Photo: Kent Police (15332821)

But "cowardly" Whitehead fled the scene shortly after, telling emergency crews he needed a cigarette before jumping in his battered Fiat and driving off.

Eight hours later, the damaged car was found outside his home Beaumont Street, Herne Bay, and rendered undriveable by police.

Whitehead, 41, was arrested and tested positive for cocaine, but it was unclear whether he had taken the Class A drug before the crash.

Earlier this year, he admitted causing serious injury by dangerous driving and was today jailed for 32 months at Canterbury Crown Court.

He has also been disqualified from driving for four years and four months.

Sentencing him, Judge Catherine Brown said: "You turned across [Mr Graham's] path. He was thrown from his motorcycle and suffered multiple fractures.

“He has had to undergo a number of operations and has been rendered with permanent damage to his left arm as a result of nerve damage.

“Leaving the scene was, as has been accepted on your behalf, cowardly, and you did so in a vehicle that was not roadworthy - that is an understatement.

“It was so badly damaged that the police could not drive it.”

The court had heard how Mr Graham was riding his Honda towards Canterbury along the A291 on March 13 last year when Whitehead pulled across him to enter the Punch Tavern at about 8am.

Mr Graham slammed on his brakes, causing the bike to nosedive, slingshotting him in the air and against the Fiat’s passenger side.

A statement from Mr Graham, who appeared in court with his partner, said he remembered seeing the car before “things went fuzzy.”

Prosecutor Caroline Knight told how an eyewitness saw Whitehead get out of the car and shout “I've killed him, I've killed him”.

She added: “He then told emergency workers at the scene he needed a cigarette, went to the car, and with that he left."

Meanwhile, Mr Graham was airlifted to London’s King’s College Hospital with life-changing injuries.

The accident happened at the turning into the Punch Tavern near Sturry
The accident happened at the turning into the Punch Tavern near Sturry

Both of his arms were dislocated and he suffered multiple fractures and permanent nerve damage to his left arm.

Whitehead was arrested and originally denied the charge of causing serious injury.

But he changed his pleas ahead of a trial earlier this year, also admitting driving without a licence or insurance, as well as failing to stop at the scene of the accident.

He denied driving under the influence of drugs.

Judge Brown explained it could not be proved if Whitehead was high at the time of incident, and so it was discarded as an aggravating feature.

“One troubling aspect is whether I should find that you were impaired by drugs at the time of this incident," she said.

“Your reading for benzoylecgonine [a metabolite of cocaine] was five times the legal limit.

“That proves you had taken cocaine, but does not prove when.”

Judge Brown added that despite a witness believing Whitehead was “under the influence of a substance” she could not be sure.

'Sadly for the victim and his family, they have been left dealing with life-changing injuries and the impact that brings' - Sgt Jason Heather

Mitigating, Phil Rowley argued Whitehouse, who has 36 convictions for 73 offences, entered early guilty pleas.

Whitehead fled the scene because he was “panicked in fear,” the barrister added, and recognised his behaviour was “cowardly and entirely inappropriate”.

“He feels remorse and regret and shame,” Mr Rowley said.

Lead investigating officer Sergeant Jason Heather, of the Serious Collision Investigation Unit, said: "Witnesses to the collision said the motorcyclist had been riding in a responsible manner and there was nothing he could have done that day to avoid the collision.

"Whitehead’s driving was dangerous and he was seen to veer right without stopping for oncoming traffic.After causing the collision, he then drove away in a vehicle which was not roadworthy and didn’t stay to face up to his actions.

"Sadly for the victim and his family, they have been left dealing with life-changing injuries and the impact that brings for all of them.

"I thank them for their support through this investigation and I hope it brings some reassurance that this dangerous driver has been taken off the road."

To read more of our in depth coverage of all of the major trials coming out of crown and magistrates' courts across the county, click here.

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