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Drink-drive killer gets five years

A drink-driving 18-year-old woman who pleaded guilty to causing the death of a cyclist as he took part in a charity bike ride has been jailed for five years.

Child-minder Bethany Mackie drove into Christian Smith from behind and failed to pull over until more than 400 metres up the road.

Mr Smith, 38, was struck as he neared the last leg of a 248-mile ride across Kent and Sussex within 24 hours in aid of the mental health charity Mind.

Father of three Mr Smith, from Boughton Aluph, Kent, died when his bicycle was hit by Mackie's Peugeot 206 on the A2990, near Chestfield, on March 22 - just two hours from the finish.

More than £82,000 has been raised on Mr Smith's JustGiving webpage since the crash - eclipsing his £1,000 target figure.

A black box device fitted by Mackie's insurance firm to her car revealed she had been driving at up to 76mph on the 60mph road moments before the crash.

At Canterbury Crown Court today, Mackie sobbed throughout her sentencing hearing as Mr Smith's widow Katie Smith read a deeply emotional victim impact statement.

Mrs Smith spoke movingly of her struggle to deal with their three children's devastating questions about their father's death.

These included "Why is Daddy gone?", "Why didn't the car stop?", "Where has Daddy gone now?" and "Please make daddy come back".

Fighting back tears, Mrs Smith told the court: "I was alone with him on that road and I tried desperately to save him, but I couldn't.

"This is something I will always feel guilty for. A short time later I had to wake up my 12, nine and five year old to tell them that their daddy was dead.

"The sounds that they made can only be described as horrifying. I have heard that sound many times over the last few months - from my own mouth as well as theirs.

"My husband Christian was a very present father who loved his family more than anything, and the gaping hole that has been left in our lives will never be filled.

"Since the morning of his death I have tried daily to answer the questions of my three children. These questions always have the same theme, asked with varying degrees of sophistication.

"Why is daddy gone?, Why didn't the car see him?, Why didn't the car stop and help? Was daddy dead straight away?

"Why didn't the ambulance save him?, Where has daddy gone now? What has happened to his body? Is daddy's body still in the road? What is cremation?

"If daddy's body is at the hospital where are his head, arms and legs? What did daddy look like in the road? Please make daddy come back.

"Will we be bankrupt now daddy is gone? Will we be homeless?

"As a parent my job is to help my children with any questions and worries they may have. I chose to do this with Christian and now he is gone I am doing this alone with the worst possible questions that any person should have to answer."

Mrs Smith went on to speak of the heartbreak she suffers from preparing for events such as Christmas and school plays without her husband's support

And looking to the future, Mrs Smith told of her anguish that her husband will not be around to walk their daughters down the aisle.

Last month Mackie, of Beltinge Road, Herne Bay, pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and driving with excess alcohol.

Today prosecutor Amy Packham said Mrs Smith accompanied her husband on sections of the ride, as well as a friend, Marc Farr.

At the time of the crash, Mrs Smith was driving in front of her husband, with Mackie travelling in the same direction in her Peugeot.

Miss Packham told the court: "Mr Smith was wearing appropriate clothing for the night's cycling.

"In fact, earlier he had put on reflective clothing, including on his shoes and the back of his trousers and his top half, and he also wore a cycling helmet."

Miss Packham said Mrs Smith became aware of a "noise" from behind her and soon realised her husband had been struck.

In her statement to police, Mrs Smith recalled seeing a car in her rear view mirror, and how she had to pull over to prevent a collision.

Mrs Smith returned to her husband and called an ambulance but despite "significant efforts" to revive him, he was declared dead at the scene, Miss Packham said.

A post-mortem examination confirmed he died from multiple injuries, which included a fractured skull and "devastating" internal organ injuries.

Two police officers who attended the area spotted two people - Mackie and a male friend who was her passenger - walking away from a parked car with a damaged windscreen, roof and near-side.

Miss Packham said alcohol was smelt on Mackie and more than two hours later she gave a reading of 73mg of alcohol in 100ml of breath - more than twice the drink-drive limit.

She told police: "I didn't see him. He didn't wear any reflectives at all." Wrongly thinking that the speed limit was 70mph, she added: "I'm sure that I was doing 69mph."

Miss Packham said the aggravating features of the case included Mackie's excess speed, her alcohol consumption and the fact she left the scene.

Mackie's defence counsel Tom Allen said: "I want to openly acknowledge on behalf of Miss Mackie her awfulness of what has happened and an acceptance on her behalf of her culpability."

He said Mackie had held a driving licence for four months. She had been out that night in her home town and was driving a male friend home after he had split from his girlfriend, he added.

Mr Allen said Mackie was "extremely inexperienced both in life and in driving". He went on: "This would appear to be the chief contributory factor in what led to this offence."

Mackie who has nine GCSEs, had started working as a childminder and was on an apprenticeship at a nursery working towards an NVQ at the time of the crash.

"Subsequently, all of that has been put on hold," Mr Allen said. He said Mackie came from a "warm and loving" family and was of previous good character.

Jailing Mackie, Judge Adele Williams said: "I have no doubt that because of alcohol, your ability to drive was seriously impaired and you failed to see Christian Smith."

She added: "It's plain that Christian Smith was a loving and loved husband, father, son and brother. His family's loss, grief, pain and anguish are very great indeed and will continue to be.

"The sort of questions that his children ask of their mother are heart-wrenching. Nothing I can say or sentence I pass can make their loss any easier."

Mackie showed no emotion as the judge also banned her from driving for five years and said she would have to take an extended driving test.

Sergeant Glyn Walker, from the Kent Police Roads Policing Unit, said afterwards: "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.

"Her breath contained 73 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, which is more than twice the legal limit. However, any amount of alcohol affects your ability to drive so the only safe option is not to drink alcohol at all if you are planning to get behind the wheel.

"The message about the dangers of drink-driving is getting through to motorists but there is still a minority who ignore the warnings. Our message is that if you're drinking - don't drive. And if you're driving - don't drink.

"Unfortunately in cases such as this, it is an innocent person whose life is lost."

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