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Puppy thief Danny Frankham killed stolen cocker spaniel and broke woman’s legs in crash near Canterbury

A young woman suffered a fractured spine when a driver fleeing police with five stolen puppies crashed head-on into her car - killing one of the pets.

Danny Frankham, of Harrietsham near Maidstone, snatched the cocker spaniels and their mother from a barn near Canterbury and made a getaway in his Subaru.

Nicole Hambelton’s dreams of becoming a police officer were dashed due to the injuries she suffered
Nicole Hambelton’s dreams of becoming a police officer were dashed due to the injuries she suffered

But the 31-year-old swung into the opposite side of the road and crashed head-on with a woman during a brief police chase.

Nicole Hambelton suffered life-changing injuries preventing her from pursuing her dream of becoming a police officer.

Frankham was jailed for four years at Canterbury Crown Court on Wednesday for his actions, after calling his criminality “an accident.”

In stormy weather, Frankham and an accomplice drove his Subaru Legacy to a stable in Shalloak Road, Broad Oak, near Canterbury.

The duo snuck into an unlocked barn and snatched a litter of five puppies and their mother to ensure they could be fed milk.

Nicole Hambelton in hospital after the crash
Nicole Hambelton in hospital after the crash

The pair bundled the cocker spaniels, worth about £1,300 each, into Frankham’s Subaru Legacy and made off along the A28 Ashford Road towards Canterbury.

But a police patrol car later spotted Frankham’s erratic driving and activated blue lights, prompting him to speed off in a residential 30mph zone.

Miss Hambelton was driving in the opposite direction when she saw Frankham’s vehicle drifting head-on towards her “like a race car”.

Laurence Imrie, prosecuting, explained: “On that left-hand bend the driver of the Subaru lost control, slid across the carriageway and collided head on with a white Vauxhall Corsa which had been travelling in the opposite direction.

“Miss Hambelton, the sole occupant of the Vauxhall Corsa describes the car driving on her side of the road, that it was going so fast it looked like it was doing 100mph and she could see it was drifting like a racing car would on a racetrack, with the back of the car already on the pavement.

The first time Nicole Hambelton was able to walk again after the crash
The first time Nicole Hambelton was able to walk again after the crash

“She had no time to react or brake and the car hit her head on - she says that she shut her eyes and the car was spinning around.

“One of the dogs had to be put down and another was never recovered,” Mr Imrie said.

Following the crash, Frankham’s Subaru careered into trees and came to a rest at a river bank.

He and his accomplice waded through the river and split up, with Frankham hiding in a fisherman’s tent after discarding his wet clothes.

But a police dog soon traced Frankham, who himself had sustained cuts and swelling, and he was conveyed to a hospital under police escort.

He provided a blood sample which tested positive for cannabis.

Meanwhile, Miss Hambelton, who is aged in her 20s, the court heard, endured a painstaking nine-hour operation.

She sustained life-changing injuries including fractures to her spine and legs, dashing her hopes of becoming a police officer.

“In my judgement, you do not show true remorse...”

By June of 2021 her legs were still too weak to walk her dog and, after numerous medical appointments, she can now only manage short distances.

Supported by her mother in court, Miss Hambleton described in a victim impact statement how “I still have to look in the mirror every day and see my scars”.

She explained how she is only being able to stand for short periods as her mobility remains “severely restricted”.

Miss Hambelton described her anguish while not being able to join friends on nights out, adding: “[The crash] hugely affected my social life, and will do for the rest of my life.

“I always wanted to be a police officer but have now accepted I will not be fit enough to do this.”

Representing Frankham, Piers Walter said he suffered a fractured ankle during the crash and had since been working collecting scrap metal to help finance his children.

“I always wanted to be a police officer but have now accepted I will not be fit enough to do this...”

Mr Walter stressed Frankham pleaded guilty on the day of trial, claimed he didn’t see the police’s blue lights, and wished to apologise “for the accident”.

Reading a letter penned by Frankham, the lawyer said he was “so sorry” and “I’m ashamed of my behaviour”.

Mr Walter argued Frankham was not trying to avoid the police at the time his car accelerated. However, the judge, Recorder Amy Nicholson, rejected the claims.

“In my judgement, you do not show true remorse - the remorse is for the situation in which you find yourself,” she said.

“Through your counsel, you say you are sorry for the accident, it was not an accident, it was a criminal act.”

She told Frankham he had snatched away his victim’s dreams of becoming a police officer by “irrevocably blightening her young life”.

Canterbury Crown Court
Canterbury Crown Court

Frankham, of Water Lane, was jailed for four years and will face a driving ban for a further two upon his release.

Supported by family in the public gallery on Wednesday, Frankham pleaded guilty at an early opportunity to causing serious injury by dangerous driving and burglary in February.

After being ordered down to the cells, Frankham said from the dock: “Thank you very much.”

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