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Joseph Bills, from Whitstable, jailed for killing Dave Thorman in Canterbury Road crash

By Paul Hooper

A drink-driver who hit a cyclist and then drove to a pub and ordered a pint as his victim lay dying in the road has been jailed for three years and four months.

Joseph Bills, 22, had also taken cocaine the night before the head-on crash with Dave Thorman in Canterbury Road, Whitstable in March, a judge heard today.

He was one and a half times over the drink-drive limit and travelling between 33 and 39mph in the 30mph zone.

Joseph Bills. Picture: Kent Police.
Joseph Bills. Picture: Kent Police.

The labourer - who has since been sacked - had been in two pubs prior to the crash.

He later claimed he was feeling drowsy after leaving the pub but could not explain why he had crossed the road and into Mr Thorman's path.

As others were fighting to keep the 35-year-old victim alive, Bills fled the scene and went to the Rose in Bloom pub in Whitstable with broken glass in his hair, where he ordered a pint.

He initially claimed he had had a row with his girlfriend, but eventually told a friend he had hit a cyclist. He began crying, saying: "I've killed him, I've killed him".

Dave Thorman was a talented chef with a passion for life
Dave Thorman was a talented chef with a passion for life

He then returned to the scene and told police he was the driver involved.

Judge Rupert Lowe told Bills: "You drove away in a panic having no regard for the person you had hit.

"You lost concentration and allowed your van to veer across the road and straight into Mr Thorman's path.

'We pray he will find forgiveness' - Mr Thorman's family speak out after sentencing

"You should not have been behind the wheel of your van."

Bills, of South Street, Whitstable, was also banned from driving for 44 months.

He admitted causing death by dangerous driving and a second dangerous driving charge for driving away with a shattered windscreen and broken headlight.

Joseph Bills
Joseph Bills

He also pleaded guilty to drink driving and failing to stop after the accident.

Bills admitted taking cocaine the night before, but prosecutor Catherine Donnelly said the Crown could not contradict his claim that he wasn't affected by the drug at the time of the crash.

Mr Thorman was cycling along Canterbury Road on his way home from work at the Crescent Turner Hotel in Wraik Hill, Whitstable when the van crossed the road and knocked him into the air.

Dave Thorman was killed in a crash in Whitstable
Dave Thorman was killed in a crash in Whitstable

Ms Donnelly said Mr Thorman had not contributed to the crash but Bills' lies that he had been doing a wheelie at the time had aggravated the offence.

Phil Rowley, defending, said Bills accepted he was solely responsible for what happened, and the claim about the wheelie "simply wasn't true".

After the crash, the labourer "panicked" and drove to the pub, but then admitted what he had done and started crying, he said.

"He mixed fatigue from work with foolishly drinking alcohol," Mr Rowley said.

"He was feeling drowsy and can't explain why the van crossed the carriageway."

The case was heard at Canterbury Crown Court
The case was heard at Canterbury Crown Court

Mr Rowley said Bills told police he had been reaching down for a cigarette at the time of the crash, but he had since retracted that claim.

Bills had faced two other charges of driving carelessly while under the influence of drink and drugs, but the Crown Prosecution Service reduced the indictment to three charges.

Driving under the influence of alcohol and with drugs in his system formed part of the dangerous driving charge, which Bills admitted.

Mr Thorman's death devastated his family and friends, who described him as a “unique free spirit with a gentle soul”.

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