Dad jailed for manslaughter over death of son Callum Rycroft on M62 in West Yorkshire

Matthew Rycroft and Callum Rycroft
Matthew Rycroft was drunk driving before crashing the car carrying his son Callum. Credit: West Yorkshire Police

A drunk driver whose autistic son was killed as they tried to cross the M62 motorway after a car crash has been jailed for causing his death.

Matthew Rycroft, of Nowell View, Leeds, had been drinking for several hours in Huddersfield before he got in his car with 12-year-old Callum Rycroft on 5 August.

After crashing the car at Hartshead Moor Services, Rycroft told Callum to walk along the motorway.

The youngster suffered fatal injuries after he was knocked down by a car, which then left the scene.

Rycroft, 37, pleaded guilty to manslaughter at Leeds Crown Court on 5 September.

He was jailed for 10 years on Monday, 6 November.

The court heard Rycroft had been drinking at Paddock Cricket Club in Huddersfield and was slurring his words and was unsteady on his feet when he got in his Audi Q5 with Callum at around 9pm. He ignored his parents' pleas not to drive and set off.

Half an hour later he joined the M62 from junction 25 at Brighouse and was seen by a witness swerving across lanes on the motorway before hitting a crash barrier.

He then attempted to take the exit to Hartshead Moor Services but clipped a kerb and flipped the car onto its side.

The section of the M62 where the crash took place was closed in both directions for around 11 hours.

Callum called his mother to tell her about the crash. He said his father had told him to "run down the motorway".

In CCTV footage shown in court, they could be seen moving from the slip road to the hard shoulder of the M62.

Callum was on the right, with his father "staggering" beside him.

They walked for around 15 minutes, covering three-quarters of a mile, as cars passed them at 70mph.

Dashcam footage showed a car putting on its brakes in reaction to the pair.

The pair crossed to the central reservation, where they walked for about a minute before attempting to cross back.

Callum, who had no speed awareness due to his disability, was struck by a Toyota C-HR. He died at the scene.

Rycroft, who did not look back at his son, was found hiding in a bush by fire crews.

Callum's disability meant he was unable to judge the speed of traffic effectively. Credit: West Yorkshire Police

He did not mention Callum and at hospital began threatening staff and refused to provide a blood sample, but became upset when told about what had happened to his son.

In a statement Callum's mother, Claire Bancroft, described the bond she shared with her son, who was born with spina bifida and diagnosed with autism at the age of four.  

She said: "Callum like any other child should have had the opportunity to grow up and go to college. He was only 12, he had his whole life ahead of him. I saw a bright future for Callum, I just know he would have achieved anything, and I am certain he would have got a good job, he would have been so good with anything practical.  

"What makes matters worse, if that could be possible, is that my children have lost their dad as well as their brother and they know Callum is not here because of their dad. Matt has torn the family apart, he has hurt a lot of people, but mostly he has let Callum down, all because of his selfishness."  

The Recorder of Leeds, Judge Guy Kearl KC, told Rycroft he took Callum across the motorway despite his "limitations, age and vulnerability."

He added: "It must have been obvious the chance of survival were limited."

He said Rycroft looked after himself rather than his son.

"You didn't even turn round to search for your son," he said.

Rycroft, who kept his head bowed as he was jailed, was also banned from driving for nine years and seven months.

Det Ch Supt Sarah Jones, of West Yorkshire Police’s Homicide and Major Enquiry Team, said: “This is a truly sad case. Matthew Rycroft should have been one of the people who Callum could trust most in the world to keep him safe.

"Tragically, Matthew ignored the pleas of his family and put himself and his son in danger and it was Callum who paid the ultimate price."

West Yorkshire Police said a linked investigation by the Major Collision Enquiry Team remains ongoing. The driver of the Toyota C-HR, a 47-year-old man, remains on bail while enquiries continue. 

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