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Hit-and-run driver killed army veteran in Canterbury collision then packed bag to flee country

A hit-and-run driver who killed a disabled army veteran had packed a bag to flee the country before he was tracked down by police.

Claudiu Patrascu, who had only been in the UK for three months, had no licence and was driving a stolen car with false plates when he crashed into trike rider Glyn Clarke.

Claudiu Patrascu killed Glyn Clarke in a hit-and-run crash in Harbledown
Claudiu Patrascu killed Glyn Clarke in a hit-and-run crash in Harbledown

Canterbury Crown Court heard the 45-year-old then fled the scene as the ex-serviceman lay dying in the road, with one witness describing him as "running for his life".

By the time police had traced him to his caravan near Faversham more than 12 hours later, he had packed a bag with food, his passport and a Romanian identity card.

A breathalyser test revealed he had been drinking but, as he claimed to have had four beers after the collision, the prosecution was unable to prove what, if any alcohol, had been consumed before he struck 69-year-old Mr Clarke.

The court heard the horrific incident was witnessed by the victim’s sister-in-law, Linda Coleman, as she followed the much-loved and well-respected grandfather in her car while he rode along the A2050 in Harbledown, near Canterbury, shortly before 1pm on Saturday, August 26.

Mr Clarke was travelling at no more than 20mph in the direction of Faversham when Patrascu, on the opposite carriageway, pulled across his path at the junction near Faulkner's Lane.

Prosecutor Martin Yale said the salad packer took no evasive action and had narrowly avoided hitting another motorist just seconds earlier.

He then ran off as Ms Coleman, who was also Mr Clarke's registered carer, was faced with the distress of comforting him while waiting for the emergency services to arrive.

Sadly, his injuries were so severe that he was pronounced dead at the scene.

The police helicopter and a dog were deployed to find the Mazda driver but it was not until 3.30am the next day that he was arrested at his caravan in Gate Hill, Dunkirk.

Glyn Clarke’s loved ones told the court of the devastating impact of his death
Glyn Clarke’s loved ones told the court of the devastating impact of his death

He initially denied responsibility but his DNA was matched to saliva found on the airbag and his fingerprints were discovered on the rearview mirror. He later claimed the keys had been in the Mazda, which was disputed by its rightful owner.

Patrascu pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving, aggravated vehicle taking, failing to stop, failing to report an accident, and driving without a licence and while uninsured.

Jailing him for more than 11 years today, Judge Alison Russell said he "could have had no doubt he was breaking the law when he set in place a disastrous chain of events" that day.

She added he had also demonstrated "despicable and self-serving cowardice" by running away as his victim lay in the road seriously injured.

Family, friends and members of the Queen's Regimental Riders Association (QRRA), where Mr Clarke volunteered as the group's land manager for its site and clubhouse near Faversham, packed the courtroom for the sentencing hearing, wearing t-shirts emblazoned with an image of the beloved biker on his three-wheeled vehicle.

At the time of his death, he had been enjoying a camping weekend with his partner, Sue, and had gone to refuel his trike. Her sister, Ms Coleman, followed him, as was their normal practice when he went out riding in case of any problems.

The court heard that despite suffering from fibromyalgia and an old army injury where he had been shot and shrapnel had lodged in his back, as well as needing a full-time carer, Mr Clarke enjoyed his independence and his passion for trikes, travelling all over the country with Mrs Clarke and her sister in tow.

Patrascu, meanwhile, had taken the Mazda and, after first driving it around the caravan site, headed out illegally onto the public roads.

Mr Yale told the court that shortly before the fatal collision, another driver in the area had to swerve around the "completely oblivious" defendant as he suddenly pulled out into his path from a standstill.

"He seemed to have no care for any other road user," added the prosecutor.

Traffic came to a standstill as hundreds of bikers escorted Glyn Clarke, who died in a hit-and-run in Harbledown, to his final resting place
Traffic came to a standstill as hundreds of bikers escorted Glyn Clarke, who died in a hit-and-run in Harbledown, to his final resting place

The fatal smash then occurred as Patrascu pulled out from the central reservation on the A2050, turning right across Mr Clarke's trike.

"The defendant waited at the junction and then, in Ms Coleman's words, 'just shot out and across the road'," continued Mr Yale.

"The manoeuvre she described appeared identical to that described by the earlier motorist, and the defendant drove directly into the side of Mr Clarke's trike.

"The defendant accelerated very quickly and there was nothing Mr Clarke could do to avoid the collision. Then, without any regard for the victim or anybody else who may have been affected by his actions, the defendant immediately got out of the car and ran away."

The force of the impact caused Mr Clarke to be thrown onto the road with what was described as a "horrific" injury to his leg, while the three-wheeler was left "completely mangled".

Having been eventually traced to his caravan, Patrascu told police on his arrest "I'd like to say last night I had about four beers", before adding: "I don't really know what's happening. I don't have a driving licence. I didn't drive any car yesterday. I've been living in a caravan."

The court heard a police collision investigator found no marks on the road surface to indicate any heavy braking by Patrascu, and the distribution of debris showed the fatal crash occurred on Mr Clarke's side of the carriageway.

"The defendant showed a deliberate disregard for the road and he drove in a manner where he was completely oblivious to other road users, crossing the traffic without any regard and crashing into a vulnerable Mr Clarke who was riding lawfully," added Mr Yale.

"This was not an error of judgement but the manner in which the defendant was driving generally, choosing deliberately to cross the carriageway without regard for oncoming traffic."

In three victim personal statements, Mr Clarke’s son, Carl, as well as his partner and Ms Coleman, spoke of their devastating loss.

The fatal collision happened on the A2050 in Harbledown, Canterbury, at the junction with Faulkners Lane. Picture: Google
The fatal collision happened on the A2050 in Harbledown, Canterbury, at the junction with Faulkners Lane. Picture: Google

They told how his life revolved around his family, his trikes and the QRRA, and his dreams of three generations one day riding together.

Mrs Clarke described losing her "soulmate", writing: "Glyn was a loving husband, father and grandfather. He was the pin that held us all together. Although he might have whined about it, he was always there when you needed him. He was always there for someone who needed help, whatever the time of day or night.

"I still wait for him to come through the door, or come into the room and say we have got to go and see someone because they need help, or telling me which grandchild we are taking with us when we went out."

The court heard the couple met through Mrs Clarke’s sister, who had known him since early 1989. Ms Coleman then became his official carer in 1999, five years after he was diagnosed as disabled.

But she described how he overcame the need for a wheelchair, with trikes giving him greater confidence.

"He was so stubborn, and worked hard to start walking again. He found a new lease of life when he was able to ride a motortrike. He started to ride trikes around five years ago," said Ms Coleman.

"It was so nice to see Glyn happy and so much more confident. He would travel all over the country on his trike, and myself and Sue would follow behind in the car in case of any issues."

Ms Coleman added that in "one fell swoop" she had lost a friend, brother-in-law and her job, while her own family had lost "a father and grandfather figure".

Carl Clarke spoke of his dad's love and support over the years, and their shared passion for trikes.

"This was our thing together and we would have ridden together - my dad, me and my son – three generations. This ride is now impossible," he explained in his statement.

Bikers escorted Glyn Clarke on his final journey through Canterbury
Bikers escorted Glyn Clarke on his final journey through Canterbury

"I really miss my dad. He had been my greatest supporter through life and still was until he was taken from us. I have five boys, three of whom are adults, and it has been a struggle.

"But my dad has always been there when needed. He was always there to calm things, explain things and help when times were tough.

"We are trying hard to support each other in this hard time. I just hope the offending person sees and realises his actions have taken so much from my family and he stands up to the consequences."

The court heard Patrascu was working legally at a salad-packing warehouse in Dover and had lived at the caravan park since arriving in the UK. He is single, with no children and no relatives living in Romania, having all moved away.

Niall Doherty, defending, said his client wished he could "turn back time" for what was "a moment of folly".

He told the court: "The first thing I would like to say is how sorry he is for his actions that have led to this tragic and horrible incident.

"He took the car and went for a journey, initially around the caravan site and then onto public roads, leading to what was the tragic and regrettable incident involving Mr Clarke and what follows from it.

"He said he panicked and fled the scene but no alcohol had been consumed in advance of this tragic accident. It was consumed on returning to the caravan.

"He tells me what happened was an aberration, completely out of character. His remorse is genuine and he does struggle on waking up every day about how he is going to live with the guilt of causing Mr Clarke's death."

Claudiu Patrascu was jailed at Canterbury Crown Court
Claudiu Patrascu was jailed at Canterbury Crown Court

But on jailing Patrascu for 11 years and three months, of which he will have to serve two-thirds before he can be released, Judge Russell told him: "As Mr Clarke lay in the road visibly and seriously injured, you didn't display ordinary, human decency.

"Instead, in a despicable act of cowardice, you got out of the stolen Mazda and, without a backward glance at poor Mr Clarke, you ran away.

"You clearly didn't care what injury you had caused or whether Mr Clarke lived or died. Indeed, other witnesses described you as if you were running for your life, as if you were on a mission.

"Clearly you were thinking only of yourself. Your mission was to avoid the repercussions of your criminal conduct."

The judge added that his packed bag found on arrest was "a clear inference you intended to flee the country rather than face up to the responsibility of taking a life".

She continued that he was also responsible for "the devastation and sadness" felt by Mr Clarke's family, and any remorse expressed by him was "self-serving".

"It seems to me your expressions of sorrow have come late in the day, with scarce regard for the family and more regard for trying to secure the least possible custodial sentence," said Judge Russell.

"That is consistent with your self-serving behaviour on the day of the accident itself."

Patrascu was also banned from driving for 14-and-a-half years, and will be required to take an extended test.

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