THE widow of a former serviceman killed by a drunk driver said she hopes he “rots in jail”.
David Churcher was driving “like a bullet” when he caused the horrific crash that killed grandfather Stephen Christopher Fawcett last year, a court heard.
The 32-year-old, of Singleton Drive in Bournemouth, was jailed for six-and-a-half years this morning after causing a collision witnesses likened to “a scene out of Casino Royale” when his out-of-control
van ploughed into the vehicle being driven by Mr Fawcett on the A35 near Bridport last year.
The victim, 49, who had served in the Green Howards, lost his life in the collision, while Churcher sustained serious brain injuries.
Yesterday morning at Bournemouth Crown Court, Judge Peter Johnson heard that the defendant – who was twice the drink-drive limit and had been rowing with his girlfriend on the phone – had been seen driving dangerously by a number of witnesses prior to the collision.
Prosecuting, Heather Shimmen said empty bottles of whiskey and vodka were found in the Ford Transit van, along with a small bag of herbal cannabis, and doctors said the defendant may have had up to 186mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood at the time of the crash.
The legal limit is 80mg.
A statement written by Mr Fawcett’s widow Christine was read aloud in the court.
She said: “I struggle with everyday life since the killing of my best friend and husband, who I loved and still love and miss so very much.”
She said she visits her husband’s grave on most days so she can talk to him.
“I struggle to communicate with people without breaking down in tears,” she added.
“I blame [Churcher] and his actions solely for my loss. I beg [Judge Johnson] not to show him any leniency as I have nothing to look forward to for the rest of my life.”
A statement written by Ian Elliot, the third driver to be involved in the collision, was also read aloud.
He said: “[A] van appeared like a bullet on the other side of the road.
“It was on two wheels and [Churcher was] driving at incredible speed.”
Mr Elliot, who suffered minor injuries in the crash, said he tried to reach both the defendant and Mr Fawcett, but was unable to help as “they were cocooned in the metal of their vehicles”.
Ms Shimmen said Churcher’s long-term partner had also contacted police moments after the collision, adding: “She was concerned for the defendant having been on the phone to him.
“She said it sounded like he was on speaker phone and, while he was talking, he suddenly swore
and the call ended.”
Police investigations revealed the phone cut out at 6.05pm - a minute before the first call was
made to the emergency services after the collision.
Churcher admitted causing death by dangerous driving and possession of cannabis at a
Mitigating, Leslie William Smith said: “Mr Churcher cannot express deeply enough how much sorrow and regret he has.”
He said the defendant had been working 80-hour weeks for Poole firm Drain Doctor and was not
meant to be working on the day of the crash, which caused him to be “irritated”.
Mr Smith also said Churcher sustained significant brain damage as a result of the collision.
"He suffered substantial impairment to his motor skills - he is unable to see other than out of the tops of his eyes," he said.
"He suffers from substantial memory loss - long-term memory loss and working memory loss. Mr Churcher is unable to remember being in court as he entered his plea. He is unable to remember me. He requires permanent assistance."
Churcher, who previously had a clean driving licence and had never otherwise appeared before
the courts, nodded as the judge told him of the “devastation” his actions had caused.
“You showed a flagrant disregard for the safety of others,” he said.
“The facts of this case are shocking.”
The defendant was also banned from driving for a decade, although the court heard his injuries are so severe that he is unlikely to ever be able to hold a licence again.
Police sergeant says: "Justice has been served"
Sergeant Joe Pardey of Dorset Police's Traffic Department said: "I am pleased that justice has been served, although my thoughts are with the family and friends of the late Mr Fawcett who have had to come to terms with the loss of a husband, father, grandfather, brother, son and friend of many.
"No sentence will ever be enough to compensate for the loss of a loved one, but the conviction and sentence send a clear message.
"Mr Churcher displayed some of the worst driving behaviour and put many people's lives at risk that day.
"He mixed alcohol, drugs and using a phone while trying to drive. It can never and should never be done. Mr Churcher should never have been behind the wheel in that state.
"The tragic death of Mr Fawcett should have been avoided."