Racer drivers cause ‘horror’ crash in Bath killing woman in her 60s 

The two racers have been sentenced for causing death by dangerous driving at Bristol Crown Court on 24 November. Credit: Avon and Somerset Police

Two drivers whose reckless racing killed a woman in her 60s have been jailed for a combined total of 16 years.

Daniel Leonard and Mark Howell's dangerous driving on a road in Bath ended the life of 64-year-old Heather Church.

Neither Leonard nor Howell stopped at the scene after Leonard hit Mrs Church at 79 mph in March 2021.

The two racers have been sentenced for causing death by dangerous driving at Bristol Crown Court on 24 November.

The drivers were in separate cars speeding side-by-side on the A367 into a sharp bend on Dunkerton Hill when one of the vehicles collided Mrs Church’s car coming from the opposite direction, the court heard.

Mrs Church suffered significant head injuries and sadly died at the scene.

Leonard, 29, of no fixed address. Credit: Avon and Somerset Police.

Judge Patrick said no sentence could “right the wrong” in this case, describing the aftermath of the collision as “a horror scene”.

The family of Heather Church released a statement after the hearing.

“As a family, we have been utterly devastated by the loss of Heather. 

“We would like to thank the members of the public who attended the collision to offer help.

"Our deepest thanks to all the emergency services personnel who attended and did their best at the scene, as well as to those who have investigated this incident which has resulted in these convictions.”

Both Leonard's and Howell's vehicles overtook a bus before racing into the bend with Leonard driving an orange Ford ST and Howell a BMW M5. 

Leonard was travelling at 29 mph over the speed limit in the moments before he struck Mrs Church causing her VW Polo to rotate and propel backwards into hedging.

The legal limit was 50pmh.

The engine and gearbox of the Ford ST were detached from the vehicle due to the impact of the collision.

Officers stopped Howell in the same car that evening in Downside Road, near Bristol Airport, and arrested him.

Howell, 32, from Bloomfield in Bath. Credit: Avon and Somerset Police

Dai Nicholas, Avon and Somerset Police, said: “The defendants’ decision to drive in such a dangerous and selfish manner is hard to fathom. 

“Witnesses we spoke to described the actions of Leonard and Howell as completely reckless and their decision to race has cost an innocent person their life.

“Our thoughts are very much with the family of Heather Church and we hope the fact those who caused the collision have been brought to justice will bring them some comfort.

He added that the “tragic” death of Mrs Church should discourage others from ignoring the road safety measures.

Leonard, 29, of no fixed address, was given a 15-year sentence, made up of 11 years in prison and an additional four years on licence

Howell, 32, from Bloomfield in Bath, was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison.

Leonard will also be banned from driving for 10 years following his release from prison, and Howell will be banned for five years on release. 

Both will have to take an extended re-test before being allowed back on the roads.