Mum wants longer sentences for hit and run drivers after her son was killed

Mathew Smyth with his baby's ultrasound scan in background Credit: ITV Anglia

A mother from Duxford in Cambridgeshire is calling for a change in the law and longer sentences for hit and run drivers after her son was killed.

Mathew Smyth was 25 when he was knocked off his motorbike by a delivery driver from Norwich.

The crash happened just outside Linton in Cambridgeshire. Mathew was discovered by another driver around a quarter of an hour later. Mathew’s mum Louise will always wonder if those few minutes could have made all the difference.

She said “my son was on his own and that was the one thing that I hated. That he was there on his own in the cold and the wet.”

After a public appeal police arrested delivery driver Ricardas Taraska from Norwich. He eventually pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving and was sentenced to 14months in prison.

Louise Smyth believes the sentence is an insult, saying “14 months so he’ll be in for three so basically he will be out around the time my grandchild is born…. “He’d lost his dad when he was seven so he knew what it meant to be a dad and he couldn’t wait… This guy is going to walk out, live his life and my son can’t do that. We can’t do that. Our lives are broke. We can’t get that back.”

Mathew had just found out his girlfriend was pregnant.

  • Click to watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Claire McGlasson

Delivery driver Ricardas Taraska, who is 23 and of Pinder Road, Norwich, was driving at 3.17am on 29 August 2018 when he hit Mathew Smyth travelling towards the Dean Road crossroads near Linton.

Cambridge Crown Court heard that he pulled out of a give way junction into the path of the motorcyclist.

Taraska failed to stop and continued east towards Haverhill.

Fifteen minutes later, at 3.32am, a member of the public came across the aftermath of the crash at the junction of Bartlow Road and the A1307, to the east of Linton.

25-year-old Mathew Smyth was riding a red Yamaha motorbike and died at the scene.

Ricardas Taraska Credit: ITV Anglia

His family shared their devastation that the "most amazing, cheeky, fun-loving young man" would now never get to meet his unborn child.

A police forensic collision investigator and scenes of crime officer identified pieces of light cluster fragments from the crash debris as being from a Mercedes. A part number on one fragment was from a Sprinter van.

Further investigation revealed the other vehicle involved was a white Mercedes Sprinter van.

Checks in the local area identified a witness who had seen a white van, with damage to its driver's side, parked in West Wicken that morning.

CCTV at their house had captured the van being recovered by Manchetts garage in Burwell.

Enquiries at Manchetts showed the van had been taken straight to the registered keepers - Roadrunner Express in Norwich.

Officers were sent to the premises and the van was seized. When inspected, the Yamaha motorcycle's instrument panel was found in the engine compartment.

The tracker system fitted to the van showed it travelling north on Bartlow Road, east on the A1307 and then into West Wicken.

The driver was identified by the courier company as Taraska, who was then arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving.

In police interview, Taraska said he was driving his works van, delivering parcels, and pulled out of the give way junction because he thought the motorcyclist was turning left.

Despite the motorcyclist not slowing down or changing lanes to turn, Taraska decided to continue his manoeuvre.

He told officers he then heard a loud bang and didn't know what had happened.

Cambridge Crown Court heard that Taraska pulled out of a give way junction into the path of the motorcyclist.

Taraska claimed he stopped for no more than 30 seconds, noticing that the bonnet of his van was damaged, but said he didn't get out because he was shaken and scared.

He admitted he then left the scene and drove to a nearby village where he parked up, called his boss and told him he had hit a deer.

At Cambridge Crown Court on 19 November, Taraska pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving. He was jailed for 14 months and disqualified from driving for 31 months, after which he must take an extended re-test.

Inspector Chris Huggins, of the BCH road policing unit, said: "This is a heartbreaking case in which one person's careless driving resulted in the death of a 25-year-old man with his whole life ahead of him. It is vital that people drive in a safe and considerate way in order to prevent awful instances like this occurring in the future."