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Swanscombe driver Naomi North jailed for dangerous driving after death of Bill Roache in Chatham

A mum-of-four who killed a “gregarious” grandfather in a hit-and-run has been jailed for four years.

Naomi North, who has three previous convictions for drink-driving, mowed down disabled 72-year-old Bill Roache while he was using a Pelican crossing in New Road, Chatham on August 10 2020.

Naomi North has been jailed for four years after hitting Bill Roache with her car in Chatham in August 2020. Photo: Kent Police
Naomi North has been jailed for four years after hitting Bill Roache with her car in Chatham in August 2020. Photo: Kent Police

Maidstone Crown Court heard the 30-year-old then drove off, with the windscreen on her Ford Fiesta smashed and leaving the dying pensioner, who had suffered multiple injuries, in the road.

North, of Church Road, Swanscombe, then spent the night in a park before walking to see her sister, who called the police the next day.

Although she later admitted causing Mr Roache’s death by careless driving, she denied the more serious offence of causing death by dangerous driving.

However, she was found guilty by a jury following a trial in February.

On returning for sentence today, (March 21), Judge Oliver Saxby KC said the mum, whose children are all under the age of 10 with the youngest just nine months old, should not have been on the road when she struck the “extremely vulnerable” Mr Roache.

Bill Roache, 72, died after being hit by a car while crossing New Road in Chatham back in August 2020. Picture: Family release
Bill Roache, 72, died after being hit by a car while crossing New Road in Chatham back in August 2020. Picture: Family release

She had not taken her anxiety medication “for days” and knew that dual carriageway section of New Road to be “dangerous.”

Furthermore, he rejected any assertion the collision resulted from a “momentary” lapse in concentration as Mr Roache, as well as the red then flashing amber lights at the crossing, would have been visible to her for as long as eight seconds.

However, Judge Saxby said although her decision to drive off was the result of “panic laced with self-preservation”, there was no evidence to suggest she had been drinking on this occasion, despite her previous record of offending, or using a mobile phone.

With several of Mr Roache’s relatives both in court and on a remote link, victim impact statements were read on behalf of the family.

His eldest child, Pamela Singh, said the circumstances and consequences of his death were “devastating” at the time and to this day.

“I’m devastated my dad died on the side of the road instead of in his bed or hospital. I’m devastated I never got to say goodbye to the first man I ever loved,” she told the court.

Police at the scene of the crash in New Road, Chatham in August 2020. Photo: UKNIP
Police at the scene of the crash in New Road, Chatham in August 2020. Photo: UKNIP

“It may be nearly three-and-a-half years since but that time hasn’t lessened the pain or devastation I feel.

“The violent nature of my father’s death and the aftermath has caused unnecessary anguish to the people that loved my dad.

“The pain it has caused is unforgiveable when there is no remorse shown. The death of my father will devastate and haunt me to the day I die.”

James Roache spoke of how he missed his father “every day”, including his “bad Dad jokes.”

But although he too described being haunted by the “horrific” nature of his death and how “emotions had resurfaced” with the court proceedings, Mr Roache said he hoped that the family would “in time find the strength” to move on.

At North’s trial, prosecutor Christiaan Moll told the court it was shortly before 11pm when the pensioner, who was assisted in his walking by two sticks, was struck by North.

Police at the scene of Naomi North's home in Cambria Avenue
Police at the scene of Naomi North's home in Cambria Avenue

She was driving her car between 29 and 33mph limit - the limit was 30mph - and hit Mr Roache, who had activated the crossing lights, when he was just a few feet from the kerb.

Although CCTV footage captured her attempting to avoid any collision by swerving it also showed her driving off post-impact without stopping.

An eyewitness in a nearby flat told the court Mr Roache had crossed one half of the dual carriageway to reach the central reservation and then continued his walk across in a “very slow and ragged” manner.

The lights were red and then flashing amber, the jury heard.

“I looked up and saw him using the crossing. I saw a car about 10ft away and thought to myself he’s going to get hit,” the witness explained.

“To put it bluntly I saw him fly into the air and land on the ground. The car just drove off after swerving...It wobbled and then carried on straight.”

It was the following day on August 11 that police received a call from North’s sister.

When interviewed, North told police that she had left the Leysdown area on the Isle of Sheppey at 10.15pm and “just didn’t see” Mr Roache.

She claimed she had been listening to Smooth Radio and then remembered her windscreen smashing before looking into her rear view mirror and seeing someone lying on the floor.

“She panicked and just drove off, spending the night in a park near her home,” the prosecutor added.

She also claimed to have lost her phone before walking nine miles to her sister’s home in Gravesend. The Fiesta was later found in Cordelia Crescent, Borstal. North lived in nearby Cambria Avenue at the time.

The court heard North had a history of binge-drinking and had twice been convicted of driving with excess alcohol in January and February 2013, and then in October 2020 just two months after the fatal collision.

In two of those offences she was more than twice the legal limit.

John Dye, defending, described her as an “extremely vulnerable young woman” who had an “horrific upbringing” that had impacted her both physically and mentally.

As well as suffering from PTSD and anxiety, she had a personality disorder and untreated ADHD.

But Mr Dye added that although she had driven off after hitting Mr Roache, she was remorseful for her actions.

Police at the scene of Naomi North's home in Cambria Avenue
Police at the scene of Naomi North's home in Cambria Avenue

“It has had a deep and lasting impact on her that she has taken somebody’s life,” he told the court.

Jailing North, Judge Saxby said he had imposed a “just and proportionate” punishment taking account of all the circumstances, but added that no penalty could “make good Mr Roache’s passing.”

“There can be no doubt he was a much-loved father and grandfather whose death remains a tragedy both for him and his family,” he explained.

But rejecting North’s assertion that the pedestrian crossing lights were green at the time she struck the grandfather as “a lie”, Judge Saxby told North: “The truth is you had just not seen him or picked up the lights or what colour they were on.

“Either you were not looking ahead at all, perhaps distracted by something in the car, or were looking ahead but not concentrating.

“Your mind was elsewhere. Let there be no doubt this was not momentary inattention. It was inattention for eight seconds or so.

“To make matters worse, having struck Mr Roache you drove on without stopping. This was panic laced with guilt and self-preservation.

“You knew you were to blame but your first instinct was to protect yourself...You had not taken your anxiety medication for days and should not have been driving.”

Regarding her previous driving offences, Judge Saxby said they showed “a disregard for road safety and a willingness to expose herself and others to danger.”

As part of her sentence, North was also banned from driving for 12 years and ordered to take an extended retest to regain her licence.

He was a wonderful dad, grandad and friend to many

The court heard despite being arrested and interviewed in August 2020, she was not charged until January 2022 and the case did not reach the crown court for another 13 months.

Her first trial date in 2023 then had to be vacated due to her pregnancy before finally going ahead earlier this year.

At sentencing, North faced a maximum jail term of 14 years as a law change increasing it to life imprisonment only applies if the offence was committed from June 28, 2022.

After the verdict, a spokesperson for Mr Roache’s family said: “Bill will never get the opportunity to meet his new grandchild due in July. We all miss him very much.

“This trial is the culmination of waiting three years for justice. Listening to the evidence and repeatedly watching the CCTV footage was difficult and upsetting and brought all the emotions back to the surface.

“Bill was a gregarious Arsenal fan. He was a wonderful dad, grandad and friend to many.”

They also thanked the jury and all those involved in bringing the case to court, saying: “It is the right outcome and feels like justice for my father.

“I am grateful to the jury for their work in reaching this outcome. Thanks to the Prosecution Service for presenting the evidence and a special thank you to the excellent work by Kent Police Collision Investigation Unit for the evidence gathering and presentation at court.

“The kindness and support from Kent Police towards us as a family was very much appreciated.”

Detective Sergeant Barry Goodsell said: “This was a tragic case in which a man using a pelican crossing was left for dead by a motorist who was clearly not paying enough attention whilst driving.

“Road traffic collisions do not happen for no reason and on this occasion the weather and lighting conditions were good, and we estimate North would have been able to see the victim for at least seven seconds before she collided with him.

“Only she knows what she was doing when she should have been fully concentrating on the road ahead of her.

“Our thoughts remain with the family of the deceased for their loss and we hope the outcome of this case affords them some closure.”

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