Support road.cc

Like this site? Help us to make it better.

Police helicopter finds hit-and-run driver sleeping in field after killing cyclist (+ video)

Drunk driver Damian Ralph has been sentenced to seven and a half years in jail

A drunk driver who killed a cyclist in Huntingdon and fled the scene was discovered sleeping in a field after Cambridgeshire Constabulary deployed a helicopter to search for him.

Damian Ralph, aged 38, was jailed for seven years and six months at Cambridge Crown Court on Monday after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing at Peterborough Crown Court to causing death by careless driving whilst over the legal alcohol limit.

Cyclist Christopher Mardlin, aged 58 and from Huntingdon, died at the scene of the crash which happened on the A141 Sapley Road at 10.40pm on 1 November last year.

Police say that Ralph fled the scene in his Hyundai Terracan 4x4 car but crashed into a hedge around half a mile away. The motorist was said to have then tried to drive the vehicle round the field to back out of it.

Officers attended the scene after being alerted by another driver, and the National Police Air Service (NPAS) helicopter was deployed and identified a heat source which was discovered to be Ralph, of Kings Ripton, Huntingdon, who was asleep in a ditch close to his vehicle.

When he was breathalysed at 0020 hours – nearly two hours after the fatal crash – he returned a reading of 89 microgrammes of alcohol in 100ml of breath, more than two and a half times the legal limit of 35 microgrammes.

A further breath test was carried out at the police station with Ralph giving a reading of 72 microgrammes of alcohol in 100ml of breath.

When interviewed by officers, he claimed that he had been driving to Huntingdon to try and prove his suspicions that his former partner had left their child at home while she went to work.

He also claimed that he could not remember hitting a cyclist and that he would have stopped his car had he been aware of the collision, even though car parts discovered by police at the scene were a match for his vehicle.

Ralph added that after crashing into the hedge, he got out of his car and felt disorientated, then fell asleep in the ditch.

Forensic collision investigators established that there was no evidence at the scene of a car braking either before or after the crash.

Besides the jail sentence, Ralph was also banned from driving for seven years and nine months and will have to take an extended retest should he wish to regain his licence.

Detective Sergeant Mark Dollard, of the Beds, Cambs and Herts (BCH) Road Policing Unit, said: “This is yet another case which highlights the utter devastation and life-changing impact someone can cause by getting behind the wheel after drinking.

“Ralph’s driving was appalling but not only that he then fled the scene, leaving Mr Mardlin to be found by the next passing motorist. Ralph crashed his car not long after and was found thanks to help from the NPAS helicopter.

“It is beyond belief that we still have to talk about the dangers of drink or drug driving.

“While Ralph thought he was safe to drive, the truth was he was anything but. The decision he made will no doubt stay with him for life and this case should serve as a stark warning to others.

“People can help us make the roads of Cambridgeshire safer for everyone by confidentially reporting others they suspect of driving while under the influence,” he added.

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

Add new comment

23 comments

Avatar
BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 2 years ago
11 likes

I'm sure The Times will publish an opinion piece about how car drivers are a danger to other road users and that more severe deterents towards their anti social behaviour are required. 

Avatar
iandusud | 2 years ago
14 likes

He shouldn't ever be allowed to drive again. 

Avatar
Simon E replied to iandusud | 2 years ago
6 likes
iandusud wrote:

He shouldn't ever be allowed to drive again. 

It would surely assist in making the roads of Cambridgeshire safer for everyone.

And let's have the MSM do a big feature on how the bastard has to walk or cycle to work (presuming he can hold down a job).

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to Simon E | 2 years ago
4 likes
Simon E wrote:
iandusud wrote:

He shouldn't ever be allowed to drive again. 

It would surely assist in making the roads of Cambridgeshire safer for everyone.

And let's have the MSM do a big feature on how the bastard has to walk or cycle to work (presuming he can hold down a job).

And hopefully - in the fullness of time - that he's realised how it is for people not in motorised vehicles. And with that some more insight into the impact of his behaviour.

Detective Sergeant Mark Dollard wrote:

The decision he made will no doubt stay with him for life ...

Hmm... unfortunately the people of Cambridgeshire will find out whether that's true or not - in roughly 4 years.

Avatar
grOg replied to Simon E | 2 years ago
1 like

A prat driving that drunk will likely drive without a licence anyway..

Avatar
eburtthebike | 2 years ago
9 likes

A reasonable sentence, sadly out of line with many other, lighter sentences for similar offences.  Hopefully this driver will never get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle ever again, and will be forced to ride a bike, suffering the driving of his peers.

Complete aside, but is that the most unfortunately named car ever?  Hyundai Terracan.

Avatar
Zjtm231 replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
6 likes

Reasonable only in comparison to other joke sentencing. Going to jail for just over three years (he'll be released at half his sentance) for extinguishing another humans’ life doesn’t even begin to compare for me.

Avatar
wtjs | 2 years ago
15 likes

I understood the proper dodge was to hit-and-run, get home and either drink more or say you have drunk alcohol at home, claim you hadn't been drinking before driving and hadn't noticed the collision or were so upset by it that you 'temporarily lost your mind'- this plan clearly doesn't work if you're too drunk to carry it out.

Avatar
Christopher TR1 | 2 years ago
9 likes

Scumbag. Deserves to rot behind bars.

Avatar
brooksby | 2 years ago
7 likes
Quote:

When he was breathalysed at 0020 hours – nearly two hours after the fatal crash – he returned a reading of 89 microgrammes of alcohol in 100ml of breath, more than two and a half times the legal limit of 35 microgrammes.

A further breath test was carried out at the police station with Ralph giving a reading of 72 microgrammes of alcohol in 100ml of breath.

I wonder how far over the limit he would have been at the time of the collision, then?

Avatar
Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
2 likes

Are we sure he was jailed for Death by Careless?  It's only meant to be 5yrs max for that?  (Not that I'm complaining, he should have been jailed for much longer. )

Avatar
OnYerBike replied to Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
10 likes

"Causing death by careless driving when under influence of drink or drugs" is a separate offence to ""Causing death by careless driving", and carries a maximum of 14 years imprisonment (https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/road-traffic-charging

Avatar
srchar replied to OnYerBike | 2 years ago
5 likes
OnYerBike wrote:

"Causing death by careless driving when under influence of drink or drugs" is a separate offence to ""Causing death by careless driving", and carries a maximum of 14 years imprisonment (https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/road-traffic-charging

I wonder what you have to do to get the maximum sentence? I'm struggling to think of something twice as bad as killing someone in a hit and run then drunkenly falling asleep in a ditch.

Avatar
nosferatu1001 replied to srchar | 2 years ago
0 likes
srchar wrote:
OnYerBike wrote:

"Causing death by careless driving when under influence of drink or drugs" is a separate offence to ""Causing death by careless driving", and carries a maximum of 14 years imprisonment (https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/road-traffic-charging

I wonder what you have to do to get the maximum sentence? I'm struggling to think of something twice as bad as killing someone in a hit and run then drunkenly falling asleep in a ditch.

Sentence guidelines don't calculate tariffs like that- for a start there is likely some form of discount for pleading guilty, which is 33% for doing so at the earliest point. You also get add ons or reductions for aggravating or mitigating factors. For a first time offender it's insanely rare to get a top end sentence, for instance. 

Avatar
Bungle_52 replied to nosferatu1001 | 2 years ago
4 likes

Is leaving someone to die without rendering assistance a mitigating factor?

Avatar
grOg replied to nosferatu1001 | 2 years ago
1 like

first time offence penalty reduction for killing someone drunk driving? so only serial offenders get the maximum.. cool.

Avatar
Kestevan replied to srchar | 2 years ago
3 likes

Run over a copper or judge....bet you get 14 yrs then.

Avatar
Mungecrundle replied to Kestevan | 2 years ago
1 like

Nope, you have to be prosecuted for murder or manslaughter to get anywhere near an appropriate sentence. See killers of PC Harper.

Avatar
Flintshire Boy replied to Kestevan | 2 years ago
3 likes

And the rest.

And a jolly good kicking - sorry, 'falling down the stairs at the station '.

Avatar
Hirsute replied to srchar | 2 years ago
4 likes

Just saw this one

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-derbyshire-60253784

Petrie admitted causing death by dangerous driving, driving while disqualified and without insurance. 6 years in jail

BUT

Petrie had 23 previous convictions from 41 offences and had two concurrent driving bans in force, was seen to drive through a red light shortly before the collision.

Petrie then drove away and dumped the car but was found by police hiding at a friend's house two days later.

So why no maximum ?

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to Hirsute | 2 years ago
0 likes

Is a top (loophole) lawyer doing pro-bono work now?

Asking for a rational "why" when faced with the disparate outcomes from legal cases is probably a mug's game.  And this situation might even be to your advantage one day.  Also perhaps we've too high an opinion of the legal system.  They certainly encourage that!  Reading the sensational ones here does make me wonder though.

Maybe the only sensible thing is resign yourself to probing no more than overall stats and support e.g. Cycling UK challenging a few wildly out-of-line cases?

Avatar
Dingaling | 2 years ago
1 like

Great headline. Who would have thought it was not safe for a cyclist to sleep in a field.

Now that the headline has been changed my comment doesn't make sense.

Avatar
grOg replied to Dingaling | 2 years ago
0 likes

always include the element being criticised.. that way, when the offending passage is changed or removed, your post still makes sense.

Latest Comments