A drug addict with more than 50 previous convictions has been jailed for 12 years for killing a child actor and his aunt when he hit them with a stolen car.
Joshua Dobby, a convicted car thief, was being pursued by police when the stolen Ford Focus he was driving struck a bollard, was launched into the air and landed on 10-year-old Makayah McDermott and Rosie Cooper, 34, killing them both as they walked in Penge, south London.
Dobby, 23 – who last month pleaded guilty to manslaughter, grievous bodily harm and dangerous driving – was sentenced to 12 years with a further three years on licence at the Old Bailey on Friday by the recorder of London, Nicholas Hilliard QC. The court heard he had 53 previous convictions, including offences of aggravated vehicle taking, robbery and common assault.
The family of the victims said in a statement outside court that they were disappointed with the sentence.
Taking the stand during the sentencing hearing, Dobby said he was sorry for his actions and he had been “reckless” and “stupid”. “I know sorry doesn’t cut the mustard, but truly I’m sorry for what I’ve done,” he said.
Dobby, whose estranged father is a millionaire owner of a pet foods wholesaler, had been pursued by police five days before the day of the fatal incident but officers said they were forced to abandon the pursuit, the court heard.
But on the afternoon of 31 August last year, as Cooper, Makayah and other children were walking to a nearby park for ice cream and to play on the swings, the stolen car was identified by cameras, and police officers pursued Dobby again.
During the chase, Dobby, who told the court he had used crack and heroin the night before the fatal incident, hit speeds of 60mph in a 20mph zone, ran red traffic lights and drove the wrong way down a one-way street. The court heard he had been released on licence from prison where he had been serving time for receiving stolen goods.
Footage of Dobby’s erratic driving was played to the court, which was filled with members of Makayah and Cooper’s family, showing him driving into oncoming traffic. Dobby lost control as he turned left into Lennard Road in Penge, mounting the pavement and striking a bollard.
Relatives in the public gallery and Dobby all wept as Anthony Orchard QC, prosecuting, told the court the car landed on Cooper, Makayah and two other children. Makayah, who had taken leading roles in productions at a south London theatre, was later found to have 40 separate injuries. Cooper suffered 54 injuries as a result of the collision.
Dobby, who was living in a car at the time of the incident and “couch surfing” at different addresses, fled the scene but was arrested nearby. Members of the public witnessed Dobby shout: “I’ve killed her. I’ve killed her.”
The court heard he wrote a letter to his girlfriend while remanded in custody, in which he admitted killing Makayah.
“After all this shit I swear by almighty God that I will never put another drug in my body and I take the oath on that,” he wrote. “Two innocent people have lost their lives cos of my selfish fucking actions and it all boils down to drugs.”
A number of victim impact statements were read to the court from relatives of Makayah and his aunt. Danielle Cooper, Makayah’s mother and Cooper’s sister, said that on the morning of the crash she sneaked into her son’s room and whispered in his ear that she loved him.
“This was the last time I touched my son,” she said. “If I had known I would never have let him go.”
Cooper said her son was a skilled footballer with dreams of playing for Chelsea. “He was a little joker, and extremely cheeky,” she said. “Now I’m left struggling to get through each day.”
She described her sister as her “best friend” whom she “admired more than anyone”.
Makayah’s grandfather and Cooper’s father, Martin Cooper, who witnessed the fatal crash, said: “I watched as the driver of the car made no attempt to stop or apply the brakes and no attempt to swerve.
“In front of my eyes, my daughter Rozanne and my grandchildren all became worthless in the eyes of the man driving the car, a means to an end. They all became expendable and their only value was to create a scene of death and destruction forcing the police to end their pursuit of him.
“For the sake of a day or two on the run, he sacrificed the life of my daughter and grandson, killing them and mutilating my granddaughter.”
Makayah’s father, Omar McDermott, said his son was a “dapper” little boy who was brave, strong and kind. He was to be the ring bearer at his parents’ upcoming wedding before he was killed, McDermott revealed.
McDermott said: “My home has become a prison of memory I wish I did not have. A prison with no freedom in sight.”