Colchester: Man jailed for three years after killing friend in crash

A 21-YEAR-OLD man who killed his friend in a car crash after drinking “five or six pints” has been jailed for three years.

Mitchell Welham, of Rotary Way, Colchester, was handed a prison sentence and a six-year driving ban for causing the death of his passenger, Michael Hammond, by careless driving.

The defendant had been under the influence of alcohol and had no driving licence or insurance when he crashed a black Ford Fiesta into a tree on the Avenue of Remembrance, Colchester, on Saturday November 21, 2009.

At the sentencing in Chelmsford Crown Court yesterday, Adam Budworth for the prosecution said that the car had “inexplicably and suddenly left the road” while going round a gentle curve.

He said that the car, which had been travelling at 43mph, hit the curb and “became airborne for about 14 metres until it hit a tree”.

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“The passenger door took the full force of the impact, literally wrapping the car around the tree,” he said.

Mr Hammond, of Spring Chase, Wivenhoe, died instantly and the driver had to be cut free from the wreckage and taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries.

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The prosecution said Mr Welham had been seen drinking about “five or six pints” at The Cherry Tree pub before he took a car belonging to the owner of the pub and went to Colchester with Mr Hammond where they were seen outside the town’s Root nightclub and Fashion caf�.

The court heard that Mr Hammond had also been driving the car, but Mr Welham had taken over at about 2am, shortly before the crash.

The prosecution said that Essex Police had left “no stone unturned in trying to fathom why this accident happened” and that there had been “simply no mechanical explanation”.

For the defence Nneka Akudolu said that Mr Welham had pleaded guilty to offence and that he had been a close friend of Mr Hammond.

“He has now lost that good friend and the guilt of being responsible for the loss will be with him for the rest of his life,” said Miss Akudolu.

She added that the defendant had shown great responsibility in the five years prior to the crash when he became the sole carer of his younger brother Reece after his mother’s departure.

Judge Charles Gratwicke told Mr Welham: “No one knows what caused you to lose control, but there are two obvious and relevant facts; one is that you do not have a driving licence and should not have been behind the wheel in the first place.” He said the second fact was that he had been driving while under the influence of alcohol.

Speaking after the sentencing, Michael Hammond’s mother Janet Lawson said: “My family and I are glad that Mr Welham is now serving a prison sentence for his stupidity on the night of November 21, 2009, when he took my son Michael’s life from us all.

“No amount of time given to Mr Welham will ever make up for what he has done, but hopefully his time in prison will give him time to reflect on his actions that night, also the pain and suffering that he has caused us all and the everyday sadness knowing that Michael will never come home. I can never forgive Mr Welham for taking my son’s life from us.

“Michael was a very popular and much-loved person, the lovely memories we have of him in his short life will never be forgotten, thinking of his cheeky smile, the family holidays, the way he looked out for his siblings and his kindness towards others will always bring a tear to our eyes but also a warm feeling to our hearts.

“Michael my son we miss and love you dearly, now that justice has been served may you rest in peace, good night my angel.

“I would like to say thank you to the police for their continuous support and determination to get a conviction, the local papers for the press coverage over the past year, but especially family and friends.”

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