Man jailed over four-year-old's hit and run death

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Aidan McAteer has been jailed
Aidan McAteer has been jailed

A man has been jailed for nine years and four months after a hit-and-run crash which killed a four-year-old girl and seriously injured her grandmother.

Liverpool Crown Court heard Aidan McAteer, 23, and passenger Dean Brennan, 27, had ran past Violet-Grace Youens, four, as she lay injured on the ground following the crash in St Helens, Merseyside, on March 24.

McAteer, who fled to Amsterdam within hours of the collision, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to causing Violet-Grace's death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury to Angela French.

Brennan was jailed for six years and eight months after admitting the aggravated taking of a vehicle and assisting an offender.

The court heard the stolen Ford Fiesta, which had cloned number plates, began travelling at speeds of about 80mph in the busy 30mph area after passing a police car on a roundabout - although officers were not in pursuit.

The car had been through two red lights before it lost control on Prescot Road and hit a kerb before colliding with Mrs French, who was crossing the road with her granddaughter in her arms.

The vehicle then hit a lamppost and the defendants, both from Prescot, got out of the driver's side door, running past the injured youngster to make their escape.

CCTV footage played in court showed McAteer running down a nearby street in the moments following the crash, with Brennan a short distance behind him.

Sentencing Judge Denis Watson QC, said: "You must have seen Mrs French and Violet lying, desperately injured, on the road, yet neither of you stopped, neither of you did anything to summon help, neither of you gave them a moment's thought or gave them any assistance at all.

"Your thoughts were for yourself, your escape and of avoiding responsibility for what happened."

Violet-Grace's family wore violet ribbons and heart shaped badges for the court hearing and her parents, Glenn and Rebecca, held a teddy.

Reading an emotional personal statement to the court, Mr Youens said: "I go to bed every night cuddling her teddy bear, the bear she was holding every night. The bear still smells of her.

"I cry myself to sleep. I miss her so much.

"I go into her room and I read to her ashes every night, bedtime stories which she used to love."

Mrs Youens told the court: "We should be shopping for her school uniform, not her headstone."

Mrs French remains in hospital following the crash with serious injuries to her legs, as well as fractures to her feet, ribs and jaw.

In a statement read to the court said she hoped to be able to walk again.

The court heard within hours of the fatal collision, at 3pm on a Friday, McAteer had boarded a plane to Amsterdam, after Brennan went to his mother's house to collect his passport for him.

After a public appeal using CCTV images from the crash scene family members of both of the men gave statements to police identifying them.

Brennan handed himself in the following Monday.

McAteer returned to the country after his mother, Alicia, who was in court for the sentencing, made an appeal through police for him to come back.

He was arrested at Manchester Airport after getting a flight back to the country from Alicante, Spain, on Thursday, March 30.

Peter Hussey, prosecuting, said when interviewed by officers McAteer said after the crash he had decided to clear his head "go to Amsterdam for a few days and smoke some weed".

He told police he saw nothing and no one in the road after the crash and only found out days later that a child had been involved.

McAteer, who wore a grey T-shirt, stared at the floor for much of the sentencing hearing.

Lloyd Morgan, defending McAteer, said: "This is a young man wracked with guilt, shame and horror that his actions have taken Violet away from her loving family, have inflicted terrible injuries on Angela French and caused all involved such pain and heartache."

Ben Morris, representing Brennan, said: "He does not instruct me to tell the court how sorry he is for what he's done because he says it's not about how he feels, it's about how those who have lost feel."

McAteer, who did not have a driving licence, admitted to police he was not a competent driver.

Speaking outside court, Mrs Youens said: "No sentence passed is ever going to bring Violet back and we are absolutely devastated."

She paid tribute to her "funny, vibrant and caring" daughter.

"You do everything to try and protect your child, looking out for meningitis, childhood cancer, and then it's taken away in an instant by two inconsiderate criminals who didn't care for anybody that day apart from themselves."

She said Violet-Grace had gone on to save two lives through organ donation.

"She is an inspiration to everyone."