Marcus Warner: Woman drove off in 'shock and panic' after fatal hit-and-run during Storm Bella

A single mother who drove off in shock and panic after being involved in a fatal hit-and-run during the atrocious weather caused by Storm Bella more than two years ago has been sentenced to a 18-month community order.

Sapphire St Hillaire had been giving a friend a lift home in the early hours of December 27, 2020, when she failed to see 34-year-old dad Marcus Warner crossing Deighton Road in Huddersfield.

Moments before the collision Mr Warner, who was wearing dark clothing, had been chatting to his girlfriend through the window of a parked car, but as he tried to cross the road he was hit by the Seat and thrown onto the bonnet smashing the windscreen.

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The Recorder of Bradford Judge Richard Mansell QC said Mr Warner plainly did not see St Hillaire coming along the road in her car nor did she see him as he walked into the carriageway until it was too late.

Marcus Warner died after being hit by the car

Mr Warner died from a serious head injury, but a subsequent investigation concluded that St Hillaire was not criminally responsible for causing his death.

But Bradford Crown Court heard that after the collision St Hillaire drove on for about half-a-mile with the badly damaged windscreen before she stopped and returned to the scene of the accident.

The court heard she was in shock and repeating hysterically:”Oh my God.”

After being at the scene for about five minutes St Hilliare, who had no previous convictions, drove away in the Seat leaving her passenger behind.

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In the following eight-and-a-half hours she failed to report the incident to the police, but her barrister Rukhshanda Hussain submitted that after St Hillaire found out via social media that Mr Warner had died she and her relatives had been leaving her home to go to the police station when an officer arrived at the property.

“There is no doubt this is an incredibly sad and tragic set of circumstances for all those involved,” she said.

“It is clear not just from her early guilty plea, but from the pre-sentence report and her demeanour today at court that she’s full of remorse and continues to blame herself.”

Miss Husain said shock and panic set in after the collision and her client’s impulse was to leave and get home to speak to her family.

“This incident is something that will remain with her for years to come,” added Miss Hussain.

St Hillaire, 27, pleaded guilty to a charge of dangerous driving which related to her driving her Seat in an “unroadworthy” condition after the collision and today Judge Mansell sentenced her to an 18-month community order with a condition that she complies with a 40-day rehabilitation activity requirement.

She was also banned from driving for 12 months and ordered to pass an extended re-test before lawfully driving again.

Passing sentence Judge Mansell said the weather that night had been atrocious due to the heavy rain and strong winds.

“Tragically just moments before you reached the parked car Mr Warner walked away from it and started to cross Deighton Road intending to join his friend,” said Judge Mansell.

“There has been a substantial delay between these tragic events and your sentencing hearing.

“This is because the prosecution conducted a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the collision which involved a reconstruction of the accident.

“The conclusion of that investigation was that you were not criminally responsible for the death of Mr Warner.”

Judge Mansell said there was no evidence that St Hillaire had been driving at excessive speed or driving in a dangerous or careless way before the collision.

“You had not been drinking or taking drugs which might have affected your ability to drive,” he added.

“The simple fact is that Mr Warner was wearing very dark clothing on that night and combined with the time of night and the weather you were simply unable to see him in time to brake or steer out of the way until it was too late.

“This was regrettably a tragic accident.”

Judge Mansell expressed his personal condolences to the family and friends of Mr Warner who had attended court for the hearing.

“Nothing that this court can do today in sentencing you will take away the terrible pain and sadness that the family and friends of Marcus Warner must have experienced for the past 18 months and which they will continue to experience for years to come.”

It was reported at the time of Mr Warner’s death that it was the second tragedy to hit his family.

Back in 2015 his brother Stefan died aged 30 after being involved in a motorcycle crash on Leeds Road, Huddersfield.