Boy racer jailed after car ploughed into crowd at illegal event

JAILED: Anthony Francis ANL-160121-152527001
JAILED: Anthony Francis ANL-160121-152527001

A pub manager has been jailed after his car careered off course and injured nine people - including a man from Spalding - in a busy crowd at an illegal race meeting.

Anthony Francis (21) was “showing off” to his girlfriend when he lost control of his Mercedes. He was jailed for 18 months and banned from driving for two years at Peterborough Crown Court on Friday.

The court heard how Francis had done a number of laps of a course set up at the unlicensed event in Orton Southgate near Peterborough on August 8 last year, which was attended by around 400 spectators.

Car photographer Ben Andrews (22), from Spalding, was fortunate to walk away from the scene with minor injuries after being hit by the car while his friend was taken to hospital.

He said: “I was there doing some car photography at 8pm at the first meeting point. Two hours later the meet moved to Orton Southgate. The evening began with a good atmosphere full of people just enjoying talking about their cars.

“When we arrived at Orton Southgate we parked up our car and went to find a spot to watch the cars. Stupidly we chose a spot where a month ago another vehicle had crashed on a previous occasion but luckily no one was standing nearby.”

As the night continued a few cars began racing around the industrial estate while a group of around 300 spectators had gathered including Ben and his friend.

Ben added: “At around 10.30–11pm a few cars began to drift and most were all doing well and were fully in control. However, I was at the kerb side when a few cars lost control which gave me and the people around me a second thought to step back.

“Then a Mercedes entered the circuit and quickly lost control at the other side of the track. However, it regained control as it approached us so everyone moved closer to the kerb thinking it would be okay.”

The horrific moment then arrived when the driver lost control of the car as it mounted the pavement at around 30-40mph, ploughing into a group of around 14 people including Ben and his friend.

“I leant forward on one of my legs and just as I moved forward the car came screeching up the kerb, it hit my left leg and flung me and a number of others to the floor. I remember just thinking that I was lucky to be alive.

“The sound was horrific; it was a combination of people screaming, crunching metal and smashing glass while the car engine slowly ticked over. The atmosphere went from a jovial one to sheer panic and most of the spectators drove off.”

Panic set in as spectators rushed to help while Ben’s friend among others had been seriously hurt and needed urgent medical attention.

Ben said: “When I got up my first thought was to attempt to find my friend who had also been hit by the car. I found my friend in a bad way; he was covered in blood and being tended to by a first aider from a local business. At that point the people that remained really pulled together to do anything they could to help.

“There must have been around 14 ambulances quickly on the scene as well as fire engines and police officers. I stayed with my friend to make sure he was okay before he was taken to hospital. It was like a scene out of a horror movie.”

Francis, of Lambeth Walk, Stamford, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, and five counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

Jailing him, Recorder George Pulman QC said: “When nine people are injured because a driver loses control while showing off, an immediate prison sentence cannot be avoided.”

Speaking outside court, PC Paul Nisbet, who investigated the crash, said: “This was an horrific crash for those injured and for the many people watching and it is only luck that no-one was more seriously hurt or killed.

“The case should send out a clear message that those taking part in illegal events of this kind run a significant risk of being seriously injured, or worse, and if you happen to be driving, a prison sentence.”