18-year-old Bethany Mackie has been jailed for five years for causing the death of cyclist Christian Smith. Smith had been midway through a 24-hour charity ride when he was hit on Old Thanet Way near Chesterfield in March of this year. His wife, Katie, had been driving a little ahead of him and tried to save his life at the side of the road. “I could not and for this I will feel guilt for the rest of my life.”
Appearing at Canterbury Crown Court yesterday, Mackie pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving, drink driving and leaving the scene of an accident. She has been jailed for five years, banned from driving for five years and will have to re-take her driving test.
Kent Online reports that Tom Allen, defending, said: “Her remorse is genuine and she struggles to see how she can deal with this in the future.”
Allen said that the teenager had been driving for four months when the accident happened and described what she did that night as being an “aberration”. He said that after going out in her home town of Herne Bay – where she drank vodka and cocktails – “it had not been her intention to drive”. However, Mackie’s passenger, who was upset about splitting up with this girlfriend, asked her to drive him home.
At 4am, 10 minutes into her journey, Mackie’s Peugeot 206 collided with Christian Smith who was travelling in the same direction.
Handing down the sentence, Judge Adele Williams said:
"You said you did not see him and he was not wearing reflective clothing, but he was. You also said 'I am sure I was driving at 69mph'. The speed limit on that road is 60mph but your speed was 76mph in the moments before the collision."
Amy Packham, prosecuting, said that Smith also had lights on the rear of his bike.
When police arrived at the scene, they saw Mackie and her passenger walking away. After smelling alcohol on her breath, she was given a breathalyser test, which she failed. A test taken two-and-a-half hours later showed she had 73 micrograms of alcohol in 100ml of breath – more than twice the legal limit.
Hit from behind, Smith had gone up and landed behind Mackie’s car. A post mortem revealed that he died from multiple injuries, including a fractured skull.
Packham explained how Smith’s wife, Katie, had been driving a little way ahead of her husband when the incident took place.
“Mrs Smith heard a noise and assumed her husband had been hit. She saw a car approaching at speed and had to take avoiding action and pull on the verge.”
Packham added that it was unclear why Mackie had failed to respond, having not stopped at once but instead about 400m down the road. It was left to Katie Smith to call an ambulance and despite significant efforts to save Christian’s life, he died at the scene.
“I was alone with him at the road and tried desperately to save him, but I could not and for this I will feel guilt for the rest of my life.”
Katie Smith then told the court how a few hours later she had to wake their three young children to tell them their father was dead. “The noises they made can only be described as horrifying.”
“A gaping hole has been left in our lives which can never be filled. My life is now one long day trying to make sure my children’s lives are as normal as possible. My partner has gone. I try to fill my time so I do not have to face reality. Nothing could have prepared me for how I feel.”
Tributes have poured in on Smith's JustGiving page since his death. The 38-year-old had been aiming to raise £1,000 for MIND through his ride, but donations have now topped £80,000. Earlier this year, Katie Smith pledged to complete the ride.
Sergeant Glyn Walker, from Kent Police's roads policing unit, said:
"This was a tragic incident that has had far-reaching consequences for everyone affected. Christian Smith's death has had a devastating impact on his family, friends and everyone else who knew and loved him, and our thoughts are with them today. Bethany Mackie must now live with what she has done for the rest of her life.”