An arrogant driver who deliberately rammed a cyclist in a hit-and-run, and weeks later persisted in claiming it was an accident, was given a life term after a jury convicted him of murder at Warwick Crown Court recently.
The judge ordered Sean Richard Fitzgerald, 36, to serve at least 13 years before he could be considered for parole.
Fitzgerald left Paul Webb, 42, to die at the scene in Bennetts Road South, Coventry, on April 16 2009.
During the six-day trial, the court heard that Fitzgerald, who had no insurance and no driving licence, had used his car as a weapon, and chased after Webb at speed after the cyclist had clipped his wing mirror.
According to the Mail Online, Fitzgerald gave chase, mounted the pavement in his car and rammed Webb’s mountain bike, sending the rider crashing into a wall.
People nearby described hearing the roar of an engine, the clatter of bins, a noise of metal hitting metal. The driver then left the scene.
Webb suffered horrendous injuries, including all of his lift ribs fractured. He had seven lung punctures and a tear in his main artery, liver damage, fractures of the skull, shoulder blade, pelvis and spine.
Hours after the fatal smash, Fitzgerald was seen cleaning down the front of his silver Ford Focus, before driving to a mechanic for repairs. It was several weeks before the killer reported to the police, claiming the collision was an accident.
Fitzgerald was convicted of murder. No verdict had been taken on the lesser, alternative charge of causing death by dangerous driving.
The Crown Prosecution Service said: “We are pleased with the result and our thoughts are very much with the family of the deceased.”
Cycling Weekly says:
It is rare for a murder charge to be brought against a driver who kills a cyclist. Causing death by dangerous driving is usually the most serious charge brought. However, more often than not, to the consternation of cycling safety campaigners, the CPS, fearful that the dangerous charge might not stick, will pursue the lesser charge of careless driving, or causing death by careless driving.
In this case the CPS were clearly satisfied with the evidence proving intent to run the cyclist down.
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The case raises some pertinent questions, such as how to prevent unstable individuals getting behind the wheel of a vehicle in the first place. Will this driver be subjected to a psychological report?
Clearly, for a driver to react like this and pursue his quarry , to deliberately smash into him, suggests an unstable mentality. Angry that the cyclist clipped his car, the red mist descended and the driver’s reaction was not simply to catch up for a verbal exchange, but to use his car as a lethal weapon and run him down, crushing him.
Not for one one second could the driver have considered the terrible consequences.
Allan Ramsay, RoadPeace cycling campaigner, makes a valid point when he says people on ASBOs, for instance, should not be allowed to drive.
He says more and more people are responding to the government’s call to become active, taking up cycling to combat the likes of heart disease and obesity.
But they don’t mention the downside – bad drivers – which ultimately means millions won’t cycle.
“The reality is that millions of drivers have no respect for speed limits – unless of course a speed camera shows on their ‘radar’. Also the vast majority of drivers seem to have no idea what “Give cyclist’s room” means.
“Accordingly, as with smoking, shouldn’t there be a health warning, like – “Upsetting drivers can be fatal”, as it was for 42-year-old Paul Webb.
“His killer was sentenced to a minimum of 13 years in prison. So, at least justice was done! Or was it? It was reported that Sean Fitzgerald was found guilty of both murder and causing death by dangerous driving. Why not two ‘life sentences’ then?
“He also had no driving licence and no insurance; tried to cover up the damage to his car; took several weeks to hand himself in, and, it was reported, at ‘no time during the proceedings did he show the slightest remorse for Mr. Webb’.”
Ramsay says: “If cycling is to achieve its full potential (as in Holland for instance) and Britain is to get the better of serious health problems we surely need more respect and more protection for cyclists, not least by giving drivers tougher penalties for bad driving, and preferably before they kill.”