Motorist drank alcohol and took cocaine before killing Lewis Knapp in tragic hit and run

Connor Emms has been jailed for four-and-a-half years. Picture: North News.
Connor Emms has been jailed for four-and-a-half years. Picture: North News.

A driver has been jailed for four-and-a-half years after causing the death of a young man in a hit-and-run.

Lewis Knapp, of Boldon Colliery, was making his way home from a nightclub on Good Friday last year with friends when he was struck by a Vauxhall Vectra car driven by Connor Emms.

Lewis Knapp died almost instantly at the scene.

Lewis Knapp died almost instantly at the scene.

Newcastle Crown court heard how Emms, then 20, carried on driving and only handed himself in to police hours later after discovering the 20-year-old victim had died.

Bridie Smurfwaite, prosecuting, told the court how Mr Knapp was walking along Anderson Street in South Shields with a group of friends and his partner Caitlyn Hardy after leaving Roxanne's nightclub at 4am on April 15.

The court heard how Mr Knapp had a disagreement with one of the group and had walked out into the centre of the road before turning and walking back towards the curb.

Emms, who had been driving at an excessive speed having consumed a cocktail of alcohol and cocaine, hit Mr Knapp while he was standing in the road.

Emms, inset, was sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court.

Emms, inset, was sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court.

Mr Knapp, who had also consumed alcohol and taken cocaine, was catapulted into the windscreen before landing back on the road.

Read more: Family's tribute to tragic Lewis Knapp after death crash driver sentenced

In a victim impact statement read to the court his partner Caitlyn said: "I ran over to him, he had his eyes open, I could tell straight away he wasn't there anymore."

Despite receiving CPR from his partner and then paramedics, Mr Knapp, who worked at Washington steel works, died after sustaining "catastrophic, un-survivable injuries".

The court heard how Emms had been driving along the road at 60mph - double the speed limit - before slowing down just before the collision.

Ms Smurfwaite said: "The defendant did not stop, he drove away from the collision but handed himself in to police later that day."

After the hit-and-run, Emms met up with a friend and visited to the house of another friend before returning home to his parent's house at 7am. He was driven to the police station by his father three hours later.

Ms Smurfwaite told the court how Emms said: "I'll be going straight to jail" while handing himself in to police.

In a victim impact statement read to the court by Ms Smurfwaite, Mr Knapp's partner told the court, said: "Lewis was taken from me in a fatal road collision. From that moment my life changed completely and I will never be the same again.

"I heard a massive bang, I have never heard anything like it before. I can only explain it like being something like an explosion I have heard in films.

"I tried mouth to mouth. I didn't really know what I was doing, but I had to try something.

"I now feel lost. I don't know what to do with myself. I find it hard to sleep. Every time I close my eyes I can see his face with his eyes open just lying on the ground."

Emms, now 21, of Sycamore Avenue, South Shields admitted causing death by dangerous driving, drug driving, failing to stop after an accident, having no insurance and driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence.

Read more: Drug-driver admits causing death of young pedestrian in hit-and-run staff

Gavin Doig, mitigating, told the court how Emms suffers from difficulties with his mental health.

He said: "He did hand himself into the police within hours and immediately admitted he had been driving - that is the right thing to do.

"The defendant did brake, not just take his foot off the accelerator, but braked before impact.

"He will never forgive himself for the pain he's caused them (Mr Knapp's family)."

In a statement read out by Mr Doig, Emms said: "I'm really sorry that this has happened. I deeply regret my actions, especially driving away from the scene, I just panicked. I have tried to do the right thing since I came to my senses. I'm sorry."

Read more: Family's tribute to South Tyneside man killed in alleged hit and run

The Recorder of Newcastle, Judge Paul Sloan QC, told Emms: "The decent thing would have been to stop, to try to assist, to contact the emergency services.

"You didn't do the decent thing, you drove on without stopping.

"He suffered catastrophic, un-survivable injuries.

"Your actions in the early hours of that April morning have had a truly devastating effect upon Caitlyn Hardy and on Mr Knapp's family - their lives have been ripped apart.

"No sentence I am permitted by law to impose could ever begin to ease the pain they suffer and continue to suffer for the rest of their lives.

"I accept that you are remorseful and that you will have to live in the knowledge that your actions caused the needless loss of a human life."

Judge Sloan QC sentenced Emms to four-and-a-half years in prison.

Emms was also disqualified from driving four three years, with an extended period of two years and three months, and ordered to pass a extended driving test before he can get back behind the wheel.