Hit-and-run driver who killed cyclist while talking on the phone is jailed for four years

"Coward": Ravinder Matharu, 32, was driving his brother’s Peugeot 206 when he struck Mr Alexandru but failed to call the ambulance or police. (Essex Police)

A “coward” hit-and-run driver who killed a cyclist on New Year’s Eve while on the phone to his girlfriend has been jailed for more than four years.

Ravinder Matharu, 32, from South Ockendon, Essex, was driving his brother’s Peugeot 206, when he collided with 43-year-old cyclist Matei Alexandru.

Mr Alexandru, a Romanian national who had been in the country for a year, was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.

Following the collision, Mr Matharu drove off with significant damage to his car, including the windscreen and one of the headlights.

He did not report the incident to the police or the ambulance service.

When police visited the address of the registered owner of the car – his brother – on the evening of the crash the car was nowhere to be found.

It was returned to the house in the early hours of New Year’s Day.

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Matharu fled to another address in an attempt to evade officers. He was arrested at a house in Purfleet later that afternoon.

He pleaded guilty to death by dangerous driving, failing to stop at the scene of a collision, failing to report a collision, driving whilst disqualified and aggravated taking without consent at Basildon Crown Court earlier this year.

He was sentenced to four years and one month in prison and was disqualified from driving for a further seven years.

Following the sentencing, Mr Alexandru’s family spoke of his death leaving a “great void” in their lives.

Collision: Matharu made off from the scene with significant damage to his car, including to the windscreen and one of the headlights. (Essex Police)

Speaking on behalf of the family, his niece Cristina said: “When we found out about my uncle’s death we were in complete shock and pain. Such pain never goes away, but rather it is something you get used to.

“The death of my uncle has brought pain, confusion, and a lot of stress. Half of the family is living in Germany, and the other half is in Romania.

“No matter how Matharu is punished, it will not change things for us.

“But I hope it will make a difference for him as a person – that he will repent and he will understand what he did. Life is not a joke or a game, let alone careless driving.”

Senior investigating officer, Inspector Rob Brettell of the Serious Collision Investigation Unit, said: “My deepest sympathies go out to Mr Alexandru’s family at this incredibly difficult time. They’ve shown a real bravery throughout this process.

“I’m glad that Matharu had the decency to plead guilty to ensure that they didn’t have to go through a trial, but that doesn’t excuse his appalling crime.

Distracted: Ravinder Matharu was driving while talking on the phone to his girlfriend (stock)

“Not only did he get behind the wheel of a stolen car knowing that he was disqualified from driving, but he showed the utmost cowardice in his actions after hitting Mr Alexandru.

“By using a mobile phone at the time of the incident, Matharu was so distracted that he was not fully conscious of his surroundings, and it ended in Mr Alexandru’s life being taken.

“Distractions on the roads can be a killer, and I would urge anyone behind the wheel of a vehicle to have their full attention on the road at all times.

“I hope that Matharu’s time in prison gives him a chance to reflect on the consequences of his actions.

“The lives of Mr Alexandru’s family will never be the same again – and he only has himself to blame.”

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