Driver jailed after man dies in Welwyn Garden City hit-and-run

PUBLISHED: 18:54 07 December 2017 | UPDATED: 18:54 07 December 2017

Billy Woodcraft. Picture: Hertfordshire Constabulary.

Billy Woodcraft. Picture: Hertfordshire Constabulary.

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A driver has been sentenced to two years and three months in prison after a hit-and-run in Welwyn Garden City left a father-of-two dead.

Piotr Caban Piotr Caban

Billy Woodcraft, aged 21, of Birch Green, Hertford was sentenced at St Albans Crown Court today (Thursday, December 7) after pleading guilty to causing death by careless driving, causing death whilst driving uninsured and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The court heard that just before 8pm on February 1, 2017, Woodcraft was driving his silver Mini Cooper along Mundells when he collided with 42-year-old Piotr Caban, who was crossing at the junction with Tewin Road.

However, despite the impact shattering his windscreen Woodcraft did not stop and instead drove away at speed, leaving the father-of-two lying in the road with catastrophic head injuries.

Members of the public found Mr Caban, who had been head hunted to work as an IT specialist with local company Roche, shortly after the collision and called an ambulance.

Mr Caban, who had moved to Welwyn Garden City from his native Poland in June 2016, was taken to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge but sadly passed away the next day.

The court heard how witnesses described seeing a silver Mini driving “dangerously” in the moments following the collision, carrying out a high-speed overtake and driving the wrong side of a traffic island on Bridge Road East.

Investigators calculated that following the collision, Woodcraft’s vehicle was travelling in excess of 60mph as he accelerated away from the scene.

The next day, Woodcraft arranged to have the Mini’s windscreen replaced and the damaged screen discarded.

On February 7, the screen was found by police in a garage block in Foxdells, Birch Green, and was immediately seized for forensic testing.

Later the same day, officers located the Mini parked in Whitehorn, Welwyn Garden City. This was also seized for forensic testing.

Mr Caban’s DNA was found on the damaged screen, which was also forensically linked to the seized Mini.

Following several police appeals online and in the local press, Woodcraft handed himself in at Hatfield Police Station on the afternoon of February 7.

As he handed down the sentence to Woodcraft the Judge, Mr Recorder Jacobs QC, said this was a “tragic case where Woodcraft had robbed the family of a life they would have had”.

The judge said the public would be ‘horrified’ at Woodcraft’s behaviour, when he left a man lying in the road at night “where he could have been run over by other motorists”.

He added: “You then drove away at high speed in an urban area with a damaged windscreen. It’s a wonder you weren’t involved in another collision.”

The court heard how Mr Caban, who was born in Wroclaw, Poland, had made a life for himself in Welwyn Garden City. He had been welcomed by both the Polish and English community and was a member of the sailing club based at Welwyn Garden City.

On the night he died, he was on his way home from collecting the keys to a new flat.

His wife Sylwia, aged 42, was heavily pregnant at the time and preparing to give birth to their second child in Poland. She planned to join her husband in Welwyn Garden City once their baby was a little older.

The couple had been together since they were teenagers.

Due to her pregnancy Sylwia was unable to fly to England after getting the news of the collision and instead their older daughter Ewa, aged 23, travelled to Addenbrooke’s Hospital where she said goodbye to her father.

Baby Jasmina, now aged 10 months, was born on February 20 – 18 days after her father passed away.

The Cabans’ oldest daughter Ewa said in an impact statement which was read out in court: “The effect of me and Mum losing Dad was extra hard and is still affecting us to this day. Dad and I shared a lot of similar interests, but I now feel like I have no one to talk to about those things.

“Any time I needed advice I came to him and my Mum.

“He helped me choose my subject at university to study which was the same as his. Any time I needed a hug or consolation I came to him. He was the one who comforted me when I was heartbroken.

“My Mum loved my dad very much. She trusted him and she valued his advice, but now she feels like she has no one to turn to. He was her pillar of strength, her best friend. He was her life. After so many years together they didn’t need words to know what they think or feel. He gave her many happy memories, which are with her every single day.

“I think the hardest thing we all need to cope with is my baby sister Jasmina will never get to meet her Dad. He was a great Dad to me and has given me a great grounding and start to life.”

Senior Investigating Officer Sergeant Richard Cruse, from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Forensic Collision Investigation Unit, said: “This was a tragic case that has cruelly deprived a family of a much-loved husband and father.

“Not only did Woodcraft’s careless driving result in him colliding with Mr Caban, but his cowardly actions following the incident only compounded the family’s pain.

“He left Mr Caban dying in the road and then attempted to cover up his involvement by having his vehicle’s windscreen replaced. I hope Woodcraft uses his time in prison to reflect on his actions which have caused so much suffering to Piotr’s family.”

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