A man from Luton has been banned from driving for 16 years, and jailed, after fleeing a crash scene which left his 17-year-old passenger with catastrophic neck and spinal injuries.
Asman Nawaz, 28, from Luton, was also sentenced to three years and five months in prison at Luton Crown Court today (Friday).
Police were able to bring the charges after the paralysed victim gave a statement to police using only her eyes using ground-breaking Eyegaze technology.
Nawaz, who is already serving a six year prison sentence for drugs and other dangerous driving offences, pleaded guilty to causing serious injury through dangerous driving at a hearing on 18 January. Both sentences will run consecutively.
On 8 August 2017, the 17-year-old victim had asked Nawaz for a lift. She and her brother had been befriended by Nawaz, and information recovered from her phone showed a 29 second phone call that morning from a contact saved as ‘B’.
At around 10.30am, an off-duty PC was on his way to work when he came across a blue Vauxhall Corsa on its side, having come off Dunstable Road.
The officer, who had his radio with him, saw a man climbing out of the vehicle, not wearing any shoes, shouting “if the feds come they’re gonna nick me”. As the officer approached, the man started to tell him that the driver of the vehicle had run off, but when he saw the officer’s police radio, he ran off towards Caddington.
The officer stayed with the victim, calling for assistance from other police officers, the fire brigade and the ambulance service. The victim had to be cut free from the vehicle, and when she was taken to hospital, doctors found her neck was broken.
While on scene, the officer heard over the radio that a man had been seen in a café in Caddington not wearing any shoes. He asked a unit to go to the café, but the man had gone, although CCTV showed him borrowing a phone before leaving.
After the CCTV footage from the cafe was released by the force in a bid to identify the man, a number of people called to identify him as ‘B’ or ‘Ozzy’ – two of Nawaz’s nicknames.
As part of the investigation into the incident, no faults were found with the vehicle that might have led to the crash and a report on the condition of the road by a Forensic Collision Investigator showed nothing obvious that would have caused the vehicle to leave the road and end up where it did.
A scenes of crime officer took multiple swabs and fingerprint lifts from the car in a bid to ascertain who the driver was. Wet and dry swabs from the driver’s internal door handle showed that Nawaz was the major contributor to the DNA recovered from the door handle, and the odds were a billion to one that it might be someone else.
Nawaz was arrested on 31 January 2018, but couldn’t be charged with the offences relating to the accident and the victim because she was too ill to communicate. Officers were unable to speak to her for almost a year because her condition was so unstable.
However in May 2018, her condition had stabilised enough that she was able to communicate with her eyes, using a screen to spell out words which were then read aloud by a computer.
When asked if she knew the person driving the car by any nicknames, she replied “yes, ‘B’ or ‘Ozzy’”. She told officers that his driving was “reckless” – unable to recall the speed but responding that “he was driving fast” and that “he lost control of the car”. Her statement meant Nawaz could be charged.
Investigation Officer Gary Hales said: “As a result of his reckless driving, Nawaz left a 17-year-old girl with such horrendous injuries that she’ll spend the rest of her life needing 24-hour care. But when officers explained this to Nawaz when was interviewed, he remained silent.
“I’d like to praise the victim for her courage in assisting our investigation. She provided ground-breaking evidence using her eyes and Eyegaze technology to communicate with us. Her bravery and courage throughout this ordeal is to be commended.
“Nawaz showed his true colours when he ran away from the scene after the crash, showing no regard for the girl he left trapped in the vehicle or her condition. I’m glad this dastardly coward has finally been brought to justice and I hope that this prison sentence will provide some sense of justice for our very brave victim.”
The victim was able to communicate her feelings through her Eyegaze computer. In a statement read out in court, she said: “I can’t move and I cannot breathe on my own. I will never get a job or have any freedom and I am in pain all the time. I can’t eat or drink and my only communication is through Eyegaze and nodding my head. I feel helpless, I don’t think I will ever be able to do anything on my own again.
“I have two younger sisters that I will never be able to cuddle when they visit or hold their hands. I feel scared about the future and how long I will live. I am aware that my injuries will shorten my life and that plays on my mind a lot as I have so much time alone to think about things. That incident has changed my life forever.”