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Last Updated: Friday, 6 July 2007, 15:30 GMT 16:30 UK
'Ferry' motorist jailed for death
John Richards outside court
John Richards was 'callous' and 'arrogant' said the judge
A wealthy landowner has been jailed for two-and-a-half years at Cardiff Crown Court for killing a motorist and then driving off to catch a ferry.

John Richards, of Malmsbury, Wiltshire, who denied death by dangerous driving, called a Tory peer and comedian Jethro as character witnesses.

Barmaid Carol Gadja, 48, from Bridgend was killed when Richards crashed into her on the M4 in March 2006.

Judge Stephen Hopkins QC told Richards, 63, he was "callous" and "arrogant".

He said that his actions "beggared belief".

Jailing Richards, a farmer, after the jury returned a guilty verdict, the judge said: "I have been watching you as the evidence has unfolded and at times half a smile has played across your lips.

"You are not only callous but I think I am dealing with an arrogant man."

I think Mr Richards is the most extraordinary, dependable of people.
Lord Mancroft

The four-day trial had heard how Richards was driving his Range Rover at speeds of up to 95mph (153 km/h) when he crashed into Mrs Gadja's car near the turn-off for Porthcawl.

Her car flipped over and crashed into an embankment ending up on its roof. Ms Gadja was thrown from the vehicle.

Richards stopped, gave his details to another motorist who dialled 999 after seeing the accident and said:"I've got to catch a ferry".

He was arrested moments after he and his wife boarded the Swansea to Cork ferry.

He claimed in court that he clipped Ms Gadja's car when she braked and he drove off because he did not realise the accident was serious.

Pillar

His close friends Lord Mancroft and West Country comedian Jethro both spoke for Richards in court.

Lord Mancroft said: "I think Mr Richards is the most extraordinary, dependable of people.

"He is reliable, generous in spirit and manner, a pillar of the local community - unusual these days."

Jethro described the landowner as the "most honourable man" and the "most charitable man".

Asked by the defence if Richards was a callous man, Jethro replied: "Not at all - not in my experience."

Richards, who farms near the village of Sherston in Wiltshire, was also banned from driving for four years.

His barrister, Patrick Harrington QC, said a prison term would have a "devastating effect" on Richards, who he said apologised "wholeheartedly".

He said Richards had obtained 600 acres of land through a "huge amount of work and effort" and was a "dedicated family man".

"This is a case where there are no winners, only losers," said Mr Harrington.

Mrs Gadja's family were in court and after the case they said: "She was a wonderful mother and grandmother.

"It was very sad to us that at the time of the accident she had another grandchild on the way but we never had the chance to tell her."

"The sentence was immaterial. He has been found guilty and that was what we wanted."




SEE ALSO
Man 'left crash to catch ferry'
03 Jul 07 |  South East Wales
Farmer denies fatal crash charge
02 Jul 07 |  South East Wales

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