Brighton driver jailed for 10 years over fatal hit-and-run

Gavin Dawes
Gavin Dawes

A man has been jailed for 10 years, and was handed a 15-year driving ban, after causing death by dangerous driving in Brighton.

Jonos Sasvari, a 78-year-old man known as John, was killed when he was hit by a speeding car as he crossed the road in Old Steine, Brighton on January 10.

Victim Jonos Sasvari

Victim Jonos Sasvari

Sussex Police said the driver, 33-year-old Gavin Dawes, was driving dangerously through the city at high speed.

Analysis of CCTV footage showed at one point he was travelling at more than 90mph, and after hitting John with his Vauxhall Astra he didn’t stop, officers said.

Dawes appeared before Hove Crown Court today (June 16), and was sentenced to 10 years and three months' imprisonment for causing death by dangerous driving, and two additional counts of dangerous driving. He was also disqualified from driving for 15 years.

Dawes, driving an Astra, and his friend Richard Woolgar driving a Vauxhall Zafira, had been seen driving dangerously on Lewes Road at around 10pm that night, police said.

Richard Woolgar

Richard Woolgar

Officers attempted to stop them but Dawes continued on Lewes Road and a few minutes later his car collided with a stationary Nissan Micra that had been waiting at the pedestrian crossing at the Old Steine.

At that moment John, who had been at a betting shop on St James’s Street, crossed the road towards North Street and Dawes drove in to him on the pedestrian crossing.

Members of the public and the first officers to arrive rushed to help John, but he died at the scene.

Dawes drove off, crossing the roundabout at the pier and driving along Madeira Drive, before abandoning his car and heading into Whitehawk.

Officers searched the area for the car, which they found abandoned and extensively damaged near to the Brighton Marina.

Work went on through the night to find and arrest 33-year-old Dawes. The other car, the Vauxhall Zafira, was found abandoned in Playden Close, Whitehawk.

The next day Dawes and Richard Woolgar, the driver of the Zafira, both handed themselves in to police, but declined to answer any questions.

On March 9, following an intense police investigation, Dawes was charged with causing the death of John by dangerous driving. He was also charged with two additional counts of dangerous driving.

Four days later Woolgar, 35, of Donald Hall Road, Brighton, was charged with dangerous driving and driving without insurance and a licence. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment, disqualified from driving for three years and fined £500 for no insurance and £100 for driving without a licence.

Road policing lead investigator Sergeant Richard Hornsey said: "It’s difficult to imagine a case where a driver has had so little regard for the safety of others than this one. Gavin Dawes wasn’t drunk or on drugs. He made a conscious decision that night to drive at grossly excessive speeds along urban roads and into the heart of Brighton.

"John had just left a local betting shop and was making his way home when he used the pedestrian crossing at the Old Steine. He was in the middle of the crossing when he was struck by Dawes’ Astra and he was tragically killed.

"Dawes didn’t stop at the scene and drove his badly-damaged car for a further one-and-a-half miles before abandoning it and running away. Despite handing himself in the following morning, he has never answered any of the questions put to him.

"This has been a challenging enquiry involving a small, dedicated team of officers and staff. I would like to thank each of them and I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the public who provided information, witness statements and CCTV footage.

"We are pleased that Dawes offered a guilty plea and hope that his sentence will act as a strong message to others that driving in a careless or dangerous manner has serious life-long consequences, not just for the driver and their victim, but also for their friends and families, as well as the wider community.

"Our thoughts today are with the friends of John."

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is independently investigating the circumstances of police actions before the crash.