Moment police hunting drink driver who killed cyclist spot him sleeping in field from helicopter

  • Watch the footage capturing the moment Damian Ralph is spotted from the Cambridgeshire Police helicopter.

A drink driver who hit and killed a cyclist in Cambridgeshire before fleeing and hiding in a field has been jailed for seven years.

Police have released footage of the moment a helicopter hunting for Damian Ralph spots him sleeping in a field after fleeing the scene then crashing into a ditch.

The 38-year-old was driving towards Huntingdon and the A141 at 10.40pm on 1st November 2021 when he struck cyclist Christopher Mardlin.

Mr Mardlin, from Huntingdon, was wearing a hi-vis jacket with reflective strips, and his bike also had working reflectors and lights.

The 58-year old was knocked off his bike and died at the scene.

38-year old Damian Ralph has been jailed for seven years and six months and disqualified from driving for seven years and nine months. Credit: Cambridgeshire police.

Ralph fled, but crashed his car into a hedge about half a mile away, before trying to drive round the field and back out.

He then hopped into a ditch in an "appalling" attempt to hide from what he'd done, detectives said.

The police helicopter tracked a heat source which showed Ralph asleep, after hiding in a ditch a few metres from the car.

Ralph of Glebe Farm, Kings Ripton, was breathalysed and found to be more than double the legal limit.

He was arrested on suspicion of drink driving and causing death by dangerous driving.

Ralph claimed he didn’t remember hitting a cyclist and would have stopped if he had known, despite damaged car parts from the scene being matched to his vehicle.

He said that after crashing into the ditch, he got out the car as he was disorientated and then fell asleep in the field nearby.

A forensic collision investigation revealed there was no evidence of a car braking before or after the crash.

Ralph pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving whilst over the legal alcohol limit at Peterborough Crown Court on December 1.

He has now been sentenced to seven years and six months in prison, and disqualified from driving for seven years and nine months.

Detective Sergeant Mark Dollard, of the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and Hertfordshire Road Policing Unit, said: "It is beyond belief that we still have to talk about the dangers of drink or drug driving."

"This is yet another case which highlights the utter devastation and life-changing impact someone can cause by getting behind the wheel after drinking.

Ralph’s driving was appalling but not only that he then fled the scene, leaving Mr Mardlin to be found by the next passing motorist."

Police say the number of calls to their confidential hotline to report drink or drug drivers almost tripled last month compared to the year before.