Woman who failed to stop at the scene of a fatal collision sentenced

A woman who admitted failing to stop at the scene of a collision in which a pedestrian died has been sentenced.

Melissa Lewis, 47 and of Pound Close in Charminster, Dorchester, appeared at Weymouth Magistrates’ Court yesterday, Wednesday 12 September 2018, after pleading guilty at the same court on Friday 3 August 2018 to failing to stop at the scene of a road traffic collision and failing to report a collision.

She was handed a 12-week custodial sentence suspended for 18 months, disqualified from driving for 12 months and ordered to carry out 250 hours of unpaid community work. She was also told to pay a total of £300 in court costs and a £115 victim surcharge.

At 7.41pm on Wednesday 27 December 2017 a collision occurred on The Grove in Dorchester at the junction with School Lane involving an Audi A3 and pedestrian Erika Prisacaru.

The 39-year-old suffered significant injuries and was treated at the scene before being transferred to Dorset County Hospital. She sadly died from her injuries just after 10pm.

At the time the vehicle that hit Erika was not known and the driver did not stop at the scene. There were also no witnesses to the collision and no members of the public could identify the vehicle that was involved in the collision and Miss Prisacaru’s death.

Forensic collision investigators and crime scene investigators found two small pieces of black plastic in the road and some scuff marks on the road surface. The marks suggested that the vehicle involved was travelling northbound down The Grove at the time of the collision.

A major operation was launched by Dorset Police in a bid to locate the vehicle involved, which included a number of public appeals and extensive CCTV enquiries.

CCTV was obtained from near to the collision scene, which showed an unidentified dark-coloured vehicle travelling along The Grove at between 38 and 44mph.

Subsequent enquiries enabled officers to establish the vehicle involved in the collision was a black Audi A3 convertible and officers began to visit the addresses of registered keepers with the same vehicle living in the area.

On the afternoon of 3 January 2018 an Audi was spotted by a police community support officer leaving the Brewery Square area of Dorchester. This vehicle was registered to Melissa Lewis. As she arrived home, officers were already at her address and noticed damage to the front offside wing of the vehicle and that the offside wing mirror had been taped up.

Lewis told officers the damage had been caused by a deer strike on 21 December 2017. She was arrested and interviewed but denied being involved in the fatal collision.

Lewis’ car was examined and pink fibres were found on the offside wing, which were an extremely strong match for those on the coat worn by Miss Prisacaru at the time of the collision. The fragments of plastic found at the scene were also a jigsaw match for those missing from Lewis’ vehicle.

Lewis’ phone was examined and her web history showed that she had viewed Dorset Police’s press releases about the collision.

Lewis was subsequently issued with a postal requisition to appear before court charged with failing to stop and failing to report the collision.

Following a thorough investigation and advice from the Crown Prosecution Service, Lewis was not charged in relation to causing the collision as it is believed her view of the road and Miss Prisacaru’s view of her car was blocked by a second vehicle that had pulled out of a junction.

Inspector Joe Pardey, of the traffic unit, said: “The events of Wednesday 27 December 2017 led to the tragic death of Erika Prisacaru.

“It is clear from the evidence available that the vehicle Lewis was driving and Miss Prisacaru collided with each other. There can be no dispute that Lewis was involved in a collision with the pedestrian as she was crossing the road.

“Melissa Lewis had a lawful duty to stop and remain at the scene. For whatever reason she chose not to. The subsequent investigation into identifying her and her vehicle saw officers working round the clock for seven days. At no time did she make any attempts to come forward.

“It could also be argued that it was morally indefensible that she failed to stop knowing that she had been involved in a serious collision and failed to come forward afterwards.

“I would like to pay tribute to the investigation team and colleagues across the Force for their immense determination and professionalism in painstakingly gathering and reviewing evidence until we identified Lewis and her car.

“Today’s sentence demonstrates our commitment and dedication to find and bring people to justice. Our thoughts remain with Miss Prisacaru’s friends and family, particularly her six-year-old son Andrei who is now being cared for by relatives.”