Hit-and-run driver who killed Irish banjo player jailed for eight years

Accused says he did not stop after hitting father-of-five because ‘I had no licence and no insurance’

Carl Lawrence tested positive for cocaine ten minutes before the collision and also had no licence or insurance. Photograph: Getty

Carl Lawrence tested positive for cocaine ten minutes before the collision and also had no licence or insurance. Photograph: Getty

 

A hit-and-run driver who knocked down and killed a talented Irish banjo player was on Friday jailed for eight years.

Carl Lawrence, now 39, said he thought he had hit a dog when the vehicle he was driving fatally struck William Corrigan in the snow, throwing him onto the windscreen and then onto the road.

Mr Corrigan, who was originally from Birr in Co Offaly, was pronounced dead at the scene in Needwood Road, Bedford shortly after 2pm on Wednesday, February 28th, this year.

Lawrence, of Bury Court, Church Lane, Bedford, had pleaded guilty to causing the death of father-of-five Mr Corrigan by careless driving, but denied causing his death while unfit through drugs.

He was convicted at Luton crown court by a majority of 11 to one.

He also admitted aggravated vehicle taking, having no licence and no insurance.

Jailing him and banning him from driving for nine years, judge Lynn Tayton QC said: “No sentence I can impose can reflect the anguish of Mr Corrigan’s family. I have the utmost sympathy for all those affected by his death.”

Luton crown court heard Lawrence had tested positive for cocaine at The Path to Recovery Centre in The Crescent in Bedford, 10 minutes before the collision, but he claimed that was from taking drugs the day before.

Asked why he didn’t stop, he replied: “I had no licence and no insurance.”

Lawrence claimed he tested positive for cocaine at the police station following his arrest because he took drugs at some point after the collision.

Dead at the scene

The jury heard members of the public went to the aid of Mr Corrigan (38) but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Prosecutor Isabel Delamare said it had not been possible to tell if Mr Corrigan, a father-of- three and a step father to two children, was on the carriageway or had walked out on the road.

She said: “He (Lawrence) was driving at excessive speed- something around 40 to 50 miles per hours in a 30 mile per hour zone. It was careless driving in the weather conditions and in a residential area. There were no brake marks on the road.”

After hitting Corrigan, who had been walking to visit his brother-in-law, Lawrence drove back to where the crash happened. Three-quarters of his windscreen had been cracked.

The prosecutor said he “tailgated” another car before driving into nearby Kershope Close, where he was seen to buy drugs. The car paused for a few seconds before turning back up Needswood Road, where it wheels spun.

A pedestrian described Lawrence as “driving like an idiot.”

A taxi driver followed the Lawrence’s car and took a photograph of its number plate at the junction with Church Road. The taxi driver returned to the scene and gave the picture to the police.

Ms Delamare said Lawrence had been driving his former partner’s car without her permission. He was arrested at her address later that day. He told the police: “I think I hit someone. I thought it was a dog. I was about to call and hand myself in.”

He said: “Is he dead? Please tell me he is not dead.”

Lawrence, who had 11 previous convictions for 32 offences, tested negative for alcohol, but positive for cocaine and cannabis.

He former girlfriend Nicola Harrall told the jury: “He said he was driving down the road, when suddenly the windscreen came in. He looked behind and couldn’t see anything so he came home.

“He told me he was on his way to pick up drugs when he had the accident.”

After the accident, William’s widow, Susan Corrigan (45) said: “The whole family is devastated by the loss of a loving husband, father and son.

“The entire family continue to miss him so much - it is hard to believe he is no longer here with us.”

She said that William had been her “best friend”. - PA