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Drunken van driver jailed for eight years after killing Folkingham cyclist

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A drunken van driver who knocked down and killed a cyclist in a hit and run smash has been jailed for eight years and banned from driving for 10 years.

Paul Walken, who was driving 20mph above the speed limit, failed to see cyclist Tim Osborn, 27, and hit him from behind as the supermarket worker was returning home at the end of his shift.

Walken then simply drove on stopping two miles later to check if his van was damaged before making his way home.

The beer pump engineer had spent the afternoon and evening repairing fittings at bars and restaurants across the East Midlands.

The fatal smash occurred as he made his way home from his final job having drunk as much as five and a half pints of lager as he checked the efficiency of his repair work at each of the outlets where he had worked that day.

Lincoln Crown Court heard how Tim’s mother Lynne, anxious because her son had not arrived home, set out to look for him and discovered his dead body in a ditch just five minutes away from their home at Pode Hole, near Spalding.

Walken, 42, of Chapel Lane, Folkingham, admitted causing the death of Mr Osborn by careless driving while unfit to drive through drink on the A151 Bourne Road, Spalding, on September 14, 2012.

David Allan, prosecuting, said: “These cases by their nature are tragic but there can seldom be a case where the circumstances are as heart rendering as this one.

“On 14 September 2012 Mrs Osborn was waiting at home with her family for her son Tim to return home from work. He was due home at 9pm. She waited and waited. At a loss she went out with her younger son to retrace the route Tim would have cycled home from his place of work.

“A short distance from her home she found the dead body of her son in a ditch at the side of the road. That was where he had been left by the defendant who had struck him and driven off.”

Three days later Walken rang a police appeal hotline to admit he had been driving in the area at the same. He admitted that his van hit something but said he was “1000% sure” it was a deer and that he was not responsible for the tragedy.

But forensic tests revealed the presence of Tim’s DNA on Walken’s van and a GPS tracker device, fitted to the vehicle so that it could be traced if stolen, showed he was on the same stretch of road at the time Tim was killed.

When the data was recovered it showed the van was travelling at 70mph in a 50 limit.

Police visited the Italian restaurant where Walken carried out his final job of the day and were told by staff that he had botched the repair job and appeared drunk. Then as he left he reversed his van into a parked car before driving off without stopping.

One worker told officers: “His eyes were glazed and his speech was slurred. Everything about him said he was drunk.”

Mr Allan said that Tim was a careful cyclist who was wearing a high visibility jacket and both his front and rear lights were on.

Tom Walkling, for Walken, said: “He is desperately sorry for what he has done. He is absolutely heart broken. The consequences of his actions will weigh on him for the rest of his life. It has affected him very badly.”

He said that Walken lost his job over the incident and has since suffered from depression.

“He didn’t think he had killed the cyclist. When it was brought to his attention that there had been a fatal accident where he had been his employer reports that he broke down in tears. He immediately rang the police.”

Mr Walkling said the defendant disputed the amount he is alleged to have drunk and believed it could have been two and a half pints

Judge Stuart Rafferty told Walken: “Any car has the potential to become a lethal weapon. The greater the amount of intoxication the greater the risk becomes. This is not murder but it is mechanised manslaughter.

“It does not matter precisely how much you had to drink. All that matters is that it took you far beyond the limit. You should have known that and yet you continued to drive.

“Tim Osborn was entirely without fault. He was there for anyone to see who wanted to see him. You had every opportunity to see him but you did not.

“This was not momentary lack of attention. It was high speed driving and then not stopping at the scene when you can have been in no doubt that you had hit something.”

The Judge described Tim as a popular man adding: “He was well-loved by his family and friends. He was a man who it seems from all that I have read would not wish to do harm to anyone. He was 27. He had his life ahead of him.”

 

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