The heartbroken mum of a much-loved man who died after being knocked down by a drink-driver has blasted his jail sentence – saying his life was “worth so much more than 10 months”.
Driver Lewis Seaman ran over 34-year-old Tom McConnachie after a night out but then drove for miles and torched the car in a bid to escape prosecution.
Uninsured Seaman, aged 29, was jailed for ten months at Plymouth Crown Court for a string of offences committed in the early hours of a Sunday morning last February.
Tom, a talented footballer, was happily returning from a night out after a groomsman’s fitting ahead of a friends’ wedding when he was struck by Seaman in a Kia Rio in the Whitleigh area of Plymouth.
He died very shortly after arriving in hospital from serious head injuries, reports Plymouth Live.
Tom’s mother Charlotte said in a statement that the family had been given a “life sentence”.
She told Plymouth Live: “I trusted that we would have justice for Tom after more than 11 months of heartache and waiting and I never thought we would be sat in the Crown Court listening to the offender being sentenced to only ten months in prison.
“Is that all my son’s life is worth? We as a family are the ones living a life sentence. We never chose to be in this situation, the offender put us in this situation.
“I won’t be able to look into my son's eyes ever again, but the offender will look into his son's eyes in just a few months.”
Tom’s girlfriend Christina revealed that the family were appealing the prison sentence for being unduly lenient. She urged others to report suspected drink drivers.
She added: “Tom was an amazing boyfriend, so thoughtful, caring and I miss everything about him. The offender has taken our future away and left me lost and heartbroken.
“I will never forgive him for that. He left my boyfriend fatally injured in the road whilst he drove off. All that mattered to him was destroying the evidence. Me and Tom should be planning our future, instead I now spend my time visiting his grave.”
Seaman hit Tom as he walked across Budshead Road to his nearby home at about 3am, the sentencing hearing was told last month.
He drove for miles while uninsured to an isolated spot and torched the Rio he was driving in a bid to destroy evidence – though it belonged to a friend.
Dad-of-one Seaman attended a police station about seven hours later.
The court heard that a friend had lent Seaman, who had been drinking that Saturday night, her car to pick up her boyfriend in another part of Plymouth.
Seaman, of Manadon, pleaded guilty to being unfit to drive through drink on February 24 last year.
He also admitted failing to stop after an accident where injury had occurred and driving without insurance.
Seaman finally pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice after setting fire to the car on isolated ground near Okehampton.
Prosecuting barrister Lee Bremridge told the court last month that a doctor concluded that the level of alcohol in Seaman’s system “would have been such that it would have impaired his ability to safely drive.”
But he added later: “It cannot be said that it (the level of alcohol) contributed to Mr McConnachie’s death”.
Mr Bremridge said that the police investigator and the CPS explained to the family at an early stage why the charges were being put. The defendant was initially arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving.
Judge Paul Darlow said that the sentence would have been far longer if the alcohol had contributed to the accident.
Neither woman can bring themselves to write Seaman’s name in their statements.
Tom’s mum Charlotte said: “Tom is hardworking, honest, thoughtful and kind. A loving son, brother, boyfriend and a good friend to many and is missed so much everyday by all of us. Tom had everything to live for."
She was angry that Seaman was allowed to carry on driving after the incident until finally being banned on January, branding it "ludicrous".
She added: “In Plymouth Crown Court on January 31, 2020 we were distraught, aggrieved and devastated.
“We had to listen to the offender’s sob story, and how this worked to his advantage in receiving a very lenient sentence, having been advised that the higher charge of perverting the course of justice holds a life sentence.
“We were not allowed to do the same for Tom. This all seemed biased and skewed towards the offender, and like Tom’s death didn’t matter.
“As a family we feel that we have not been given any empathy by the court system and Tom has most definitely not got justice.
“The offender was described as hardworking and respected individual. It was disclosed in the public court that the offender had a previous convictions for other offences, including previous drink-driving, and was banned for 18 months, reduced to 10 months as he completed a drivers awareness course.
“He definitely did not learn anything from this as he did it again.
“Tom WAS a hardworking, respectable man with no criminal record, had never taken a day's sick from work and got himself a taxi home that evening. Tom was described by the taxi driver as being happy, he joked during the drive home, wasn’t staggering and shook his hand goodbye.
"The offender was then sentenced to only 10 months imprisonment, to be most likely released in approximately five months with a three year and five month driving ban and to take an extended driving test.
“This is certainly not a deterrent for any other drink drivers committing an offence. Tom’s life was worth so much more than 10 months.
“I won’t be able to look into my son's eyes ever again, but the offender will look into his son's eyes in just a few months. The offender has completely destroyed my family.
“We have taken a few days to prepare a statement due to how distraught and angry this sentence has made us.
“Losing a child is any mother’s worst nightmare. As a family we should be making memories and I should be seeing both my sons growing older, having families and being happy.
"Tom was my eldest son. He was kind, thoughtful, caring and always made me proud. I miss his chats and his presence in the house. Tom was brother to Hamish. They were always close and worked for the same company and Hamish misses him deeply. Tom won’t be there by his brother’s side to watch Hamish and Lina get married.
“Tom met his girlfriend Christina who made him so very happy. It’s heartbreaking to see their future has been taken away from them.
“Tom and I shared our Dalmatian Archie, who he adored. Archie is still watching out the window for his best friend to come home.”
Tom was born in Germany but grew up and went to school in the south west.
He played football for Callington Colts and continued on the five-a-side pitches.
He previously worked at Duchy Desserts in Launceston but spent two years working, skydiving and shark-diving in Australia.
Christina added: “Me and Tom had so many plans together, ones we’ll never be able to make. We used to enjoy long walks with our dogs and finding new places to explore. Now he walks with us in spirit.
“Tom was supposed to be groomsman last year for his best friends Andy and Katie. He was looking forward to this and had planned his stag do to Prague. Tom should’ve been there by his friend’s side.
“His friends all miss him dearly from the UK and Australia.
"Tom was a huge Liverpool FC Fan and would be so happy with how they’re playing this season. We will continue to support Liverpool for Tom.
“The offender will be out at some point, but we’re living a life sentence without Tom. We will never be able to see, speak or cuddle Tom again. We can’t celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and Christmases with Tom.
“We will forever have that empty chair that Tom should still be sat in making memories. The criminal justice system has completely let Tom and us down.
"Tom, I love you with all my heart, you’ll never walk alone, and I’ll meet you at the beach."
Seaman’s barrister Ali Rafati told the sentencing hearing that although his client drove dozens of miles and torched the friend’s car, he attended the police station some seven hours after the crash.
The barrister said that Seaman wanted to see his child first, not knowing whether he would be remanded into custody straight away.
He added that Seaman would carry the guilt for what he had done for the rest of his life.
The barrister said that his instructions were that Seaman’s view had been hampered by fog along Budshead Road, however the witnesses described the conditions as being clear that morning.
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