Speeding drunk driver is out of jail in just two years - while my girls grow up without their dad

Eric Codling
Eric Codling
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A speeding drunk-driver who mowed down a father-of-two out cycling in Sheffield has been released from prison after just two years.

Emma Egan hit and killed Eric Codling as she chased her boyfriend through a city suburb - at 69mph in a 40mph zone - in November 2013.

Graphic: Graeme Bandeira

Graphic: Graeme Bandeira

She was jailed for just four years in July 2014 after admitting causing death by dangerous driving, but was released on licence in July this year to serve the second half of her sentence in the community.

’Feeling like murder’: Dozens of killer drivers walk free

Eric’s widow Karen Codling said Egan had been moved to an open prison within months of her sentence starting.

She said she remains angry at the sentence given to Egan, whose own sister was killed by a drink-driver eight years earlier.

The mother-of-two said the impact on her and her two daughters of her husband’s death has been ‘horrendous’.

Mrs Codling said: “My anger hasn’t gone away. I’m watching my daughters grow up without their dad.

“It is hard, I never wanted to be a single parent.

“This year has been slightly better than the last two years. There hasn’t been as much crying and breaking down.

“When one of the girls says ‘I miss my dad, I want my dad’, you can’t do anything. All you can do is cuddle them and let them cry.

“We know we can’t bring him back but when you look at photographs it is still difficult to believe he is not out there somewhere.”

Mr Codling, 55, a painter and decorator at Ponsford furniture store, was originally from Middlesbrough.

His widow said: “Eric was quiet. Me and the kids were the loud ones. He was very, very fit and very sporty. He loved football and was a massive Middlesbrough fan.

“At his work, they all loved him. He had a really dry sense of humour and we were a team, we looked after the kids together.”

He had been out for a Sunday morning cycle ride when he was hit and killed.

Sheffield Crown Court heard in 2014 that Egan, from Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, had jumped behind the wheel of her car after a night of drinking after being dumped by her boyfriend of the time, Liam Dent.

While tailgating her ex-partner as he travelled in the car in front, Egan lost control of her Vauxhall Astra, which span and ploughed head on into Eric on Whirlowdale Road, Whirlow.

Despite initially stopping, Egan left the scene without reporting the collision.

The court heard that when police found her in Mr Dent’s home in Sheffield, Egan was ‘wailing incoherently, rocking in her seat and physically shaking before falling to the floor and vomiting.’ She told officers ‘Oh God, what have I done? I’m so sorry’.

Mrs Codling said police officers arrived at her house shortly after the fatal crash to tell her the news her husband had died.

“They knocked on the door - the way you see on TV and can’t imagine in real life,” she said.

“I was just hoping what the police were telling me wasn’t true. Then it goes through your mind, I have got to tell the girls.”

Mrs Codling said she believes sentencing laws for death by dangerous driving cases must be reviewed.

She said: “It doesn’t feel like she has been punished, with only a few months in a proper prison then going into an open prison with days out. How is that a deterrent? The consequences aren’t that serious.

“There are people in jail who have done a crime and not killed somebody and have got longer sentences than what these people are getting.

“Why is killing somebody with a car different to killing somebody in another fashion?

“How would these Government ministers feel if it was one of them that got that knock on the door from the police telling them a loved one has been killed?”

‘They will walk away after a short pause in their lives - but they destroyed ours’

It is almost as though, as an Army Major, Richard Gilbey is somehow expected to hurt less. To stay stoic, stand strong, and shoulder the ache that grief has left.

He sobs when he speaks of what happened to James. He has lost his only son, and nothing can ease that pain.

Yet, as months pass and James’ killers come closer to being free, he still feels the burden of protecting others weighing ever-more heavily on his mind.

“I can’t do anything for my boy any more, other than this,” he said. “I need to fight.

“There isn’t a day goes by that someone isn’t killed by dangerous driving in this country. And people are walking away.

“They gave James a death sentence. They gave myself, my wife, my daughter, a life sentence. Yet those who killed him were given four years. That is a kick in the teeth.

“I’m not letting this go. I’m not going away. I will do what it takes to change things. This has got to stop now.”

James Gilbey, from Bramley in Leeds, was 25 when he died in July last year.

A bright, outgoing, sociable young man, he had just been promoted at work and had been out celebrating with friends on the night he was knocked down and killed.

He had been walking home, crossing the Stanningley bypass, when he was hit, struck with such impact that his body flew 70 metres before crashing to the ground. He was killed instantly.

The two men responsible, who had been racing at speeds of 79mph in the 40mph zone, fled the scene, one of them pausing only in an attempt to retrieve his number plate.

Majid Malik, of Silverhill Avenue in Bradford, and Kaiz Mahmood of Hinchliff Street, Bradford, both 28, handed themselves in days later after a massive police search.

They had disposed of their cars. Burnt their clothes. And been in hiding for two days.

They were each jailed for eight years, and will serve four.

“We had to sit in the court while their families were shouting and jumping for joy at the news, with big smiles on their faces,” said Major Gilbey. “We had to sit and endure that.

“Four years for those who callously took away James’ life. That is not justice, it’s a disgrace. It undermines the value of James’ life. It undermines the loss to our family.

“Just what would they have had to do, to be more callous, to get a longer sentence?”

Major Gilbey says Malik and Mahmood made decisions that night; to race, to leave James lying on the road. To dispose of the car, to burn their clothes, to hide.

“They were all calculated decisions,” he said. “Why was this not manslaughter?

“If I fired a gun down the street and hit someone, I wouldn’t be done for firing a gun - I’d be done for manslaughter. Why is this any different?

“A car is a piece of metal. The way they chose to use it made it a weapon. That weapon killed my son.”

James, known as Gilby to his footballing friends, had worked at British Gas as a call centre operative and had just been promoted to become a trainer.

“James was a lovely lad,” said Major Gilbey. “Happy, jolly, he phoned his mum every night.

“As long as those around him were happy, he was happy. He just liked to enjoy life. But now, that has been taken from him.

“We don’t have a life any more. My daughter, Victoria, has just had a baby, a 15-week-old boy. He will never know James, and James will never know him. Their actions have brought this about.

“Judges have got this get-out clause - they say ‘no sentence will ever be enough to ease the pain of those left behind’. That’s true. But don’t kick us even more.

“These sentences really hurt. We will never get the opportunity to see our boy again, nothing can make us feel worse than that. But this, this is almost dismissing his life.

“Malik and Mahmood showed no remorse. They callously mowed him down. They left him there to die.

“They will walk away after nothing more than a short interlude in their lives. Yet they have destroyed ours.”