Published: 12:00, 14 August 2014
A drug dealer has been convicted of murder after he ploughed into a user in his car over a deal that went wrong.
Jake Austin admitted the manslaughter of John O’Donohue, 33, this week but continued to deny murder.
Austin showed no reaction to the unanimous verdict from the jury of seven men and five women but swore at police officers as he was taken to the cells.
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Loud banging could then be heard from behind the door. Members of Austin’s family wept.
Judge Jeremy Carey had told him: “You have been convicted on what I judge to be clear evidence by this jury of the murder of John O’Donohue and you will be sentenced tomorrow to life imprisonment.”
The judge added he would decide how long Austin would spend behind bars before the parole board would consider his release.
Austin’s QC Ali Naseem Bajwa had asked that sentence should not be passed immediately so that they could “take stock”.
He added: “There are things I wish to say on his behalf.”
Judge Carey told jurors: “This has been a remarkable experience for you and one you won’t forget.”
They had been told Mr O’Donohue’s friend Aaron Eldridge was too ill to attend court and his statement was instead read to them.
It can now be revealed that he took a drugs overdose and is still seriously ill in Medway Hospital with suspected kidney failure.
The court had earlier heard the 25-year-old Class A drug dealer drove after the victim and his friend Aaron Eldridge after they tried to con him over payment for crack cocaine and heroin by including paper among cash.
They had arranged to meet at flats in Grange Road, Gillingham, on January 23 and Austin – known as Guez or G – arrived in his Ford Mondeo estate with another man.
Prosecutor Dominic Connolly said when the friends tried to con Austin out of the drugs he 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,” said Mr Connolly.
“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.”
Austin drove his car straight at Mr O’Donohue and caused him fatal injuries when his head hit the windscreen.
The car carried on at speed, smashing through railings and over a retaining wall before stopping.
“It is the Crown’s case that Austin deliberately drove his car at Mr O’Donohue in revenge for what had happened moments before,” added Mr Connolly.
The victim died in a London hospital from multiple fractures to his head shortly afterwards.
Austin, formerly of Priestfield Road, Gillingham, now of Eltham, south east London, admitted driving dangerously but denied he intended to hit Mr O’Donohue.
He claimed he did not know he had struck the victim until he got out of his crashed car and saw him lying on the ground.
Realising he was “in big trouble”, he said he then fled in panic.
“I was horrified,” he said. “I thought somewhere along the line I am responsible for this guy being next to my car.
“I was thinking this is very serious, I am going to be in a lot of trouble. I thought other people around would help him.”
Video: The murder scene in Gillingham at the time of the hit-and-run
Austin is due to be sentenced tomorrow.
More by this authorKeith Hunt