Man admits Crawley police chase hit-and-run killing

image captionLeonard Jones was being chased by police at the time of the hit-and-run

A 26-year-old man has admitted killing a 70-year-old woman in a hit-and-run in Sussex.

Joanna Hakesley, died in hospital after being struck by a stolen red Mazda in Church Road, Copthorne, near Crawley, West Sussex, on 28 October 2009.

Leonard John Jones, of Rhodes Way, Crawley, pleaded guilty to manslaughter at Lewes Crown Court.

Jones, who was being chased by police at the time, fled the scene when officers went to aid Ms Hakesley.

He had been due to go on trial on Tuesday but changed his plea to guilty before it went ahead.

He had also admitted two counts of dangerous driving at a previous hearing, which can now be reported.

'Complete lunatic'

Opening the case, prosecutor Richard Barton described the minutes leading up to the fatal collision as a "quarter of an hour of utter stupidity" demonstrated by Jones.

He told the court the car had been stolen from outside a house in Salfords, Surrey, the previous Saturday night.

It was then spotted the following Thursday - the day of the collision - by an off-duty police officer at a Texaco garage in Copthorne Road.

The court was shown film footage taken from two other police cars and the police helicopter which pursued the Mazda as it swerved across lanes and overtook other cars at speeds of up to 100 mph.

Mr Barton said the two police cars were then ordered to stop chasing Jones due to fears his driving would endanger other road users, but were still able to drive to where he was located after liaising with the helicopter.

In footage taken from the air, Miss Hakesley could then be seen to cross the street onto the pavement, while the Mazda was paused in a side road facing towards her.

As the Mazda pulled forward slowly, a police car drove towards it to try to block its path, but the car was then seen to mount the kerb and drive along the pavement to avoid it.

As Jones accelerated around the corner he struck Miss Hakesley.

The court heard Jones sped off from the scene, narrowly avoiding other pedestrians including a man with a zimmer frame, driving like a "cannonball" and "a complete lunatic".

He then went on to drive around a roundabout the wrong way before leaving the car at Gatwick Airport and fleeing on foot.

He was arrested three days later.

'Substantial sentence'

Mr Barton told the court Jones was also awaiting sentence for a charge of burglary, and said he had a number of previous convictions for other motoring offences while a juvenile.

He was also sentenced to six years in a young offenders' institution after being convicted of a number of violent assaults in October 2001.

Sentencing was adjourned until 5 July for pre-sentence reports, but Judge Richard Brown warned a substantial custodial sentence was "inevitable".

Det Ch Insp Trevor Bowles, of Sussex Police, said Jones had shown "callous disregard for human life".

The incident was initially referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) but was later sent back for local investigation.

A family tribute following Miss Hakesley's death described her as "a loving sister and someone who cared about her family and friends, especially her neighbours, whom she took it upon herself to care for".

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