Drunk-driver jailed for killing top veteran rider
DHC team member "was a legend"
A drunk driver who killed a veteran southern counties road cyclist near Southampton has been jailed for seven-and-a-half years.
Derek Witt, 60, a member of the DHC Racing Team, died instantly when a car driven by Michael Filgate careered out of control and crashed into him on Itchen Bridge last August.
Team mate Peter Sneddon was badly injured in the crash, which happened as the pair and two other members of DHC were nearing the top of the bridge after an Olympics-related photoshoot in Calshot.
After the hearing at Southampton Crown Court, Mr Witt’s widow Janet said the sentence would “in some measure” help to ease the pain of her loss.
The court heard that Filgate, who had never held a licence or passed a test, was up to three times over the drink-drive limit and had taken crack cocaine.
According to the Southern Daily Echo, Filgate was doing at least 40mph in a 30mph limit as he drove a Peugeot with six passengers to a nightclub. He lost control of the car as he overtook a taxi in the face of an oncoming vehicle, which he missed by about 18 inches.
He over-corrected, skidded and smashed into the bridge wall before rebounding across the road to hit two cyclists. Police found parts of the bikes strewn over the road and one officer described the scene as “total carnage”.
Mr Witt, a father of two, died from multiple injuries. Mr Sneddon spent six weeks in hospital and had to use a wheelchair for five months. He is now walking with the aid of sticks, but continues to suffer disability.
Filgate, 38, of Copenhagen Towers, Weston, told police he was a “recovering junkie” and was on pills to tackle his heroin addiction. He admitted causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by driving without a licence and insurance.
Judge Peter Ralls QC described Filgate as “a public menace” and hoped the sentence would bring some closure to the families of the victims.
Matthew Jewell, defending, said he was genuinely remorseful and had no wish to drive again.
After the case, Insp Darren Miller, the officer in the case, said: “I cannot think of a more lethal combination than that of a driver who had not only taken alcohol but also drugs, was unlicensed, uninsured and in a vehicle which was clearly overloaded.”
Mr Witt’s widow said: “We all miss him so much and today’s outcome will in some measure help to ease the pain of our loss.”
Derek Witt was one of the South’s prominent road cyclists in the 1960s and 70s, and at the time of his death had been due to take part in the following weekend's League of Veteran Racing Cyclists National road race championships in Warwickshire.
He had also planned to take part in an Olympic torch relay to mark the handover of the Games from Beijing to London. Dave Hooper, of the DHC team, said. “Derek embodied the competitive Olympic spirit. We all respected and loved him. He was a legend.”