A CAR thief whose passenger died after he lost control and smashed into an oak tree has been jailed.
Michael Taylor was going so fast the Nissan X-Trail SUV took off and flew through a hedge before coming to rest in a field.
The 38-year-old denied causing passenger Daniel Chater’s death by dangerous driving – until the day of his trial at Warwick Crown Court when he heard that experts put his speed at around 65mph in a 50mph area.
Taylor of Barle Grove, Smiths Wood, was jailed for three years and nine months after he changed his plea to guilty and also admitted aggravated vehicle taking.
Judge Peter Cooke also disqualified Taylor, who had been driving without a licence or insurance and had refused to take a breath-test after the crash, for six years and four months.
Prosecutor Stefan Kolodynski said it was not possible to show he was over the legal limit, but his refusal to take a breath test indicated he thought he might be.
Mr Kolodynski said the Nissan belonged to Danielle Williams, who lived in a caravan in Leicestershire and she and her mother were the only people permitted to drive it.
On November 9, 2017 Miss Williams, who had been in a relationship with Taylor for three months, returned home after working a night shift and found him in bed.
She first woke at 3pm, and heard him outside talking to Mr Chater, but then dozed off again – and was later woken by a neighbour telling her the Nissan had been involved in a crash.
Taylor, who had taken the car and her phone without her permission, had been driving along the B4102 near Nuneaton, through the village of Astley towards Fillingley, with Mr Chater in the passenger seat, at around 5.15pm.
The combination of his speed and ‘gross inattention’ led to the car going up onto the verge and hitting a large oak tree, with the passenger side taking the full force of the impact.
Another driver, Warren Edwards, who was on his way home from work, saw the Nissan in the field with its hazard lights on, so stopped and went over to it and saw Taylor in the driver seat.
Taylor told him: “The driver’s done a runner,” and he maintained that story when the police arrived, claiming that he had been drinking, so had been in the back, and that the driver was someone called Mark who had fled from the scene.
But when he was interviewed following his arrest, he accepted he had been driving.
Mr Chater, aged 29, from Nuneaton, was rushed to hospital, but died in the early hours of the morning as a result of ‘catastrophic head injuries’ he had suffered.
Suzanne Francis, defending, said there was evidence that after the crash Taylor was trying to help Mr Chater, who was a friend, holding his hand and his head.
Jailing Taylor, Judge Cooke told him: “You saw fit to take, without her consent, the relatively new Nissan X-Train of your then-girlfriend Danielle.
“You were on a mission to go somewhere, it’s not clear where. In the front passenger seat was a young man, your friend, described as a big-hearted man who adored his children.
“The car left the carriageway on a gentle sweeping right-hand bend foreshadowed by a ‘slow’ sign painted on the road.
“You pressed on at a speed that was excessive. Coupled with what can only have been a significant period of inattention, you allowed the vehicle to veer off the road to the left.
“The result of that was a hideous accident in which this substantial car was caved in, particularly in the area occupied by Daniel Chater.”