A Chinley motorist who dragged a dead man’s body to the side of the road after driving over him and then fled the scene has been jailed for what a judge described as ‘a grotesque act’.
Motor Neurone Disease sufferer Keith Ambrey suffered fatal injuries after he stumbled into the road and was hit by a 4x4 on the A6 at Newtown.
The 61-year-old had missed his stop on the train and was walking home when he collapsed into the carriageway.
Other drivers saw an object in their headlights, but Joseph Wild, who was on his way home from a casino, drove straight over him believing he was a bin bag.
But when the 74-year-old realised what he had done, he leapt from his vehicle, dragged the body to the side of the road, then lied about what had happened. He abandoned Mr Ambrey’s body at the kerbside and drove home to bed.
Now the well-respected farmer and businessman’s reputation is in ruins after he was given 17-month sentence for a course of action that “beggared belief”.
It absolutely beggars belief you could leave Mr Ambrey where he was and you could drive home, make no call to anyone and go to bed.Judge Jonathan Gosling, speaking at Derby Crown Court
Derby Crown Court heard how, on the night of the tragedy last March, Mr Ambrey had been out with friends in Manchester before making his way home to Hazel Grove on the last train at 11.10pm. His companions said they did not consider him to be drunk. But he missed his stop and waited until Whaley Bridge to get off the train. He was seen walking home along the A6 at New Mills Newtown some three miles away.
Julia King, prosecuting, said: “Ultimately and tragically he stumbled into the road and fell and was hit by Wild’s car.”
At around 1.30am a couple had driven past on the other side of the road and saw Mr Ambrey fall and hit his head. But he sat up in the road and appeared to be searching for his glasses.
Seconds later Wild’s large Mitsubishi Shogun passed them heading towards the stricken man. Another driver flashed his headlights when he saw the vehicle approaching. He thought it would stop, but the driver made no attempt to slow down or steer around the object.
The car drove over it and dragged what looked like “a dummy” along before it stopped and a man got out of the vehicle.
Moments later John Redfearn drove past Wild’s 4x4 and saw a badly injured man, he quickly turned his car round and went back to the scene.
“He saw Wild standing next to his car,” said Ms King. “When Mr Redfearn asked what had happened, Wild said he had found the body and dragged it to the side of the road.”
Wild asked him if he had a phone, but in his panic Mr Redfearn forget he had his mobile with him. But after driving off he contacted police about what he had seen.
By the time another motorist passed the scene and saw the body Wild was nowhere to be seen. He had stopped for just two-and-a-half minutes.
Mr Ambrey was pronounced dead at the scene. Police pieced together evidence from witnesses and CCTV footage and traced Wild to his farmhouse 12 hours later.
He told officers he had seen the body in the road and thought it was a bin bag, it was only when he stopped he realised it was a man who was cold so must have been dead for some time.
Wild also claimed a taxi had stopped and he spoke to the driver who said he would ring 999, before he eventually drove off. That was exposed as a lie.
A post-mortem found the well-loved step-father had died instantly from severe head and body injuries. It also uncovered Mr Ambrey was suffering an undiagnosed heart condition which probably caused him to collapse into the road.
Using CCTV footage and witnesses statements it was established the stricken man could not have been there any longer than 45 seconds.
Wild’s car was travelling on or just above the 30mph which investigators said would have given him at least five seconds to stop or take evasive action.
The injuries showed that the 4x4 had run over Mr Ambrey and dragged him just 12 yards down the carriageway.
Ms King added: “It’s highly improbable he engaged in conversation with any taxi driver. Despite an appeal no taxi driver ever came forward.”
In mitigation, David Toal said neither speed nor alcohol were a factor in the “sad tragic event”, but he admitted Wild’s later actions “aggravated” what had taken place.
“Everyone has made a mistake and almost always they don’t result in any consequences let alone the death of an individual,” said Mr Toal. “His mistake cost the life of Mr Ambrey and he will have to live with that for the rest of his life.
“He cannot explain what he did afterwards, but he understands it was totally wrong and why Mr Ambrey’s family feel like they do.”
He said Wild was a well-respected member of his local community, who had worked hard all his life running his family’s farm and butcher’s business.
The judge described Mr Ambrey as “a kind and generous man” who was dealing with advanced MND with “characteristic courage”.
“If events had taken a different turn his family could have perhaps forgiven… but they can never come to terms with what you did next,” said Judge Gosling.
“There is nothing to suggest you are a callous man, you were in deep shock and now you have expressed your remorse.
“But that cannot excuse what you did. Grotesquely you dragged his body to the side of the road and there you left him.”
The judge said had the evidence not pointed to Wild then “no doubt you would have continued the lies”.
“You made a conscious decision to drive off, confident that you would not be traced and if you were you could maintain the lie,” said Judge Gosling.
“It absolutely beggars belief you could leave Mr Ambrey where he was and you could drive home, make no call to anyone and go to bed.
“You either did not think about or care about who happened upon the scene that you left behind. Those people did what they could to give him some dignity.”
Wild, of White Knowle, Chinley, who pleaded guilty to causing Mr Ambrey’s death by careless driving on March 23 last year and failing to report an accident, was told he must serve at least half of his sentence in jail.
Passing sentence, Judge Gosling added: “You lied and said the body was cold and that you had found it in the road. You also lied about the taxi driver and that you had done what you could, and then left the scene. I’m afraid they were all calculated lies.”