A Brighton builder who mowed down a pedestrian in Kemp Town and then left him for dead has been jailed for six and a half years.
Footage of Adam McDermott knocking down meter reader Andy Payne in Kemp Town went viral after it was released by Sussex Police in January last year.
Within hours, McDermott was arrested after a rooftop stand-off at his then home in Vernon Terrace, Brighton, after several calls to police identifying him.
Today (Tuesday 28 November) at Brighton Crown Court, he was sentenced to four years for dangerous driving causing serious injury and two and a half years for perverting the course of justice to be served consecutively, making six and a half years in total.
His friend Clark Walker and girlfriend Robyn Burns, who owned the Fiat 500 driven by McDermott, were also sentenced for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Walker has been jailed for two and a half years and Burns was given a suspended sentence of 18 months and 160 hours of unpaid work.
The hit and run happened at about 3.40pm on Thursday 14 January when 53-year-old Andy Payne, from Hove, was hit as he crossed Montague Place in Kemp Town.
The Fiat was being driven along Bristol Road before turning left into Montague Place where it hit Mr Payne as he crossed the road. It didn’t stop at the scene and carried on up Montague Place and turned right into College Street.
Incredibly, Mr Payne has recovered well from his injuries. He has since gone back to work for the same company although he has retrained to be a smart meter engineer and said he had tried his best to get on with life.
He said: “It impossible to put into words the impact that the defendant’s dangerous driving has had on my life. After I was hit by the car I was left wondering whether I was dying as everything seemed so unrecognisable.
“Physically I am almost back to how I was before, but emotionally and psychologically I feel I need help to come to terms with it. I still cannot understand, as a human being, how the driver could mow me down, without even braking and drive off leaving me for dead.
“It is inconceivable. For them to lie to the police and continue to do so is to me unimaginable. Still to this day I don’t know how I survived. I feel in my heart that it was not my time to die. I have not yet seen the CCTV footage and get very emotional talking about that day.
“It took many months to build myself up both physically and emotionally. I was afraid to walk short distances and found it difficult to cross roads on my own. I have not felt able to go back to the gym, which I had been going to for 30 years, due to fatigue.
“I am grateful to my family for all their support and help getting me through a very difficult time in my life and helping me recover from my injuries.
“I would like to thank the police for their care and incredibly hard work to bring us justice, the hospital staff and the good samaritans who sat with me and helped me after the incident.”
His wife Lisa, 51, a nurse at a GP surgery in the city, didn’t know what had happened to her husband of 28 years until she received a call from her son at about 6pm that day.
She rushed to the Royal Sussex County Hospital to be at his bedside, alongside their three children, thinking they could be spending their last moments with Andy.
She said: “I am grateful every day Andy is still here but there has been a change in him. It has been subtle – not many people would notice – but he’s not the same person he was. He suffers with his memory now and is much more cautious about things.”
Walker, 32, pleaded guilty to conspiring to pervert the course of justice on Thursday 12 January at Hove Crown Court.
McDermott and Burns both pleaded not guilty and their trial was due to begin on Tuesday 3 October at Lewes Crown Court. However, that same day, they both pleaded guilty to their offences.
As well as the jail term, McDermott has been banned from driving for eight years and will have to sit a retest.
Sergeant Dan Pitcher said: “I am delighted all three are now facing punishment for their part in the events from that day. McDermott’s manner of driving – and that he didn’t stop – shocked and appalled everyone who saw the CCTV.
“How Andy is still alive and has no major long-lasting physical damage is a miracle. It only comes down to sheer luck that we were not investigating Mr Payne’s death.
“I am so glad Andy is alive to see justice done.
“McDermott and Walker will now face nine years behind bars and Burns, although not spending time in prison, will have her life impacted forever by the decisions she made in trying to help cover up her boyfriend’s actions.”
A team from the road policing unit, including PC Dave Upjohn and led by Sergeant Dan Pitcher, began to investigate.
The Fiat 500, with significant damage, was driven north up Montague Place, turned into College Street, and was found abandoned in the early hours of the next day in Madehurst Close.
The car had not been reported as stolen and officers paid a visit to the registered owner Robyn Burns, who at that time lived in Donald Hall Road. The 30-year-old told officers the car must have been stolen.
Officers initially believed that she had nothing to do with the collision but did suspect her boyfriend, Adam McDermott, to be the driver of the car.
Just under a fortnight after the collision, on Monday 26 January, the shocking CCTV footage from a nearby church and off-licence was released by officers to try to confirm the name of the driver.
More than three million people viewed it on Facebook alone and there were 16,000 comments, some naming Adam McDermott.
Information from this directly led police to arrest McDermott at his home that night. He decided to make things hard for himself by hiding on the roof of the flats. Officers had to negotiate with him for hours before he came down. He was then arrested.
Officers began to piece together evidence, including the events of the day, to prove that McDermott had been driving and that Burns knew exactly what had happened to her car.
On Wednesday 14 January, McDermott drove the Fiat 500, for which he wasn’t insured, to take his mother to her hairdresser in Kemp Town. He then went to a chemist in St James’s Street to pick up a prescription and it is believed that he was driving back to Donald Hall Road, with his friend Clark Walker, when he hit Mr Payne.
However, rather than stopping and helping Mr Payne, he continued to drive the severely damaged car away from the area.
Once he and Walker had abandoned the car in Madehurst Close, they tried to set fire to it to burn the evidence and make it look like it had been stolen.
CCTV footage was found of Walker, less than an hour after the collision, at the Premier Bristol Estate convenience store in Donald Hall Road, buying lighter fluid. A moped, ridden by McDermott, is seen on the CCTV outside.
After the purchase was made, Walker and McDermott are seen to disappear into Beresford Road, which is connected to Madehurst Close by an alleyway. This is where the pair tried to set fire to the car.
The lighter fluid was found in the car after the pair unsuccessfully tried to torch it. They just burnt the front seats.
Officers believed that Burns had encouraged McDermott not to call the police about the collision after he told her what happened that day, knowing full well that she had allowed him to drive the car. He neither had a licence nor insurance to drive.
The determined team of officers began building up evidence of her perverting the course of justice before arresting her at work in October 2016.
On seizing her phone, they were able to piece together the last year of text messages between the couple.
They showed clearly that McDermott picked up Burns from work daily and she allowed him to use the car regularly with almost deadly consequences.