THE search for the driver responsible for Jade Clark’s death sparked the largest-scale inquiry ever carried out by Dorset Police’s traffic unit, the force has revealed.

Brian Hampton, 58, was jailed for six years on Wednesday for killing Jade in a collision and lying in an attempt to cover his tracks.

A team of traffic cops, together with detectives from the force’s Major Crime Investigation Team and officers from around the country, spent weeks searching for the driver.

A witness told police the car involved was a Volvo XC90 and this was supported by debris found at the scene. Police established the car was manufactured between 2003 and 2007.

During their investigation, police examined more than 1,500 XC90s and interviewed countless witnesses.

Jade’s mum Sharon, step-dad Danny and nan Linda gave an emotional press conference.

Police used CCTV and Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras to spot Brian Hampton’s car travelling from Kent to Poole on the day of the accident – February 24 – with the grille trim intact.

They noticed him making the return journey the following day with a missing grille trim.

Hampton, 58, of Ashford, Kent, was jailed for four years for perverting the course of justice and two for causing death by careless driving, driving while disqualified and with no insurance.

DI Marcus Hester, of MCIT, said: “It’s the largest scale- hit-and-run inquiry I can remember and that morning when we thought we had found the vehicle there was a great lift in the team.”

He added: “It was a pretty callous crime because we are now aware that if Hampton had stopped at the time, it’s unlikely that Jade Clark would have died. She was left exposed on an unlit road and it was, sadly, the following car that caused her fatal injuries.

“The reaction from the public was exceptional.

“We were dealing with a pretty 16-year-old girl going about her own business who, through no fault of her own, died due to the behaviour of Hampton.

“He made an informed decision to drive his vehicle that day whilst disqualified with tragic consequences.

“The only reason he drove away was self-preservation.”

Traffic Inspector Matt Butler said: “I would like to pay tribute to Jade’s family, who despite their unbearable heartache, found the strength to do everything they could to trace the car.”

He also thanked the public for a “heartening” response which helped trace the car.

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