Speeding driver jailed for schoolgirl’s hit-and-run death

A speeding driver who knocked down and killed a 10-year-old girl in a hit-and-run while "off his face" has been jailed for seven years and four months.

CCTV footage showed Connor Marsden had drunk two pints of snakebite – lager and cider – in a local club an hour before the collision with Melissa Tate in Kenton, Newcastle.

He broke down in tears when the arresting officer told him the much-loved schoolgirl had died.

Her family donated her organs following the crash on September 25, saving the lives of sick children.

Marsden, 24, admitted causing her death by dangerous driving at a hearing at Newcastle Crown Court in October.

Judge Amanda Rippon jailed him then praised the girl's mother who made a moving victim impact statement.

Addressing the family about the sentence, the judge said: "I know it's not enough, it's all I can do. They have my very best wishes."

Melissa Tate
Melissa Tate (Northumbria Police/PA)

Melissa died in hospital a day after being struck by the uninsured, unlicensed driver's Renault Kangoo in Hillsview Avenue.

Mark Guiliani, prosecuting, said he was travelling at around 47mph in a 20mph zone, was aware he had hit the girl and fled the city, hiding in Easington, County Durham.

Mr Guiliani said a witness saw Marsden afterwards, saying: "He described him as off his face, incoherent."

Another witness, a member of the Institute of Advanced Drivers, saw the van approaching the scene of the collision and recalled Marsden was driving "like a maniac".

The witness said a group of children was clearly visible at the side of the road.

Mr Guiliani said Melissa was playing with friends and was knocked down as she tried to cross the narrow residential street, about 150 metres from her home.

She died in hospital the next day – her sister's sixth birthday.

Police arrested Marsden in Easington 20 hours after the collision. He refused a police request to provide a blood sample.

The court was told that had he been arrested within 18 hours, he could have been compelled to provide a sample.

Marsden previously also admitted causing death by driving while uninsured and unlicensed, both of which relate to Melissa's death.

He also entered guilty pleas to charges of failing to stop after a road accident, failing to report an accident, driving while uninsured, and driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence.

Brian Hegarty, defending, said Marsden "recognises that his actions were completely inexcusable".

He added: "He is aware his actions in leaving the scene were an appalling act of cowardice and self-preservation.

"His actions contrast starkly with the selfless wish of Melissa to donate her organs and they have given hope and relieved the suffering endured by other children."

Her mother Kimberley Wilson made an emotional victim statement about her daughter, who was a volunteer Mini Police cadet who proudly wore her uniform.

She said: "I will never see Melissa grow up to be the beautiful, successful young woman we know she would have been.

"No parent should ever outlive their child. No parent should ever bury their child. I never thought it would happen to us."

Mr Guiliani said Melissa's father Michael Tate described her as a "beautiful, smart, funny, cheeky, laidback girl with a heart of gold and not a bad bone in her body".

Melissa Tate death
Melissa Tate, with her father Michael (Northumbria Police/PA)

Mr Giuliani said the family could not forgive, explaining: "To have left the scene and fled the area to hide from the police after failing to take any action is unforgivable."

Judge Rippon told Marsden: "If you had been complying with the law, you would not have been driving.

"If you had been complying with the speed limit, Melissa would be alive today."

The judge appeared to gather her emotions as she considered the devastating "collateral damage" to Melissa's loved ones, including her sister "who will never be able to celebrate her birthday without remembering her sister who died that same day".

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