Serial car thief jailed for knocking down and killing chef

By Tom Eden, PA Scotland

A thief who killed a chef when he crashed into him while behind the wheel of a stolen car in Edinburgh has been sentenced to five years and three months in jail.

Persistent car thief Declan Mayes crashed into Lionel Simenya in March this year as the chef chased two of his friends who had tried breaking into the van he was sleeping in.

The 21-year-old driver “lost control” of the stolen Peugeot during the pursuit, hitting a fence before running over the entangled victim and inflicting the head injuries that killed him.

Declan Mayes (Police Scotland/PA)

Mayes fled the scene and abandoned the crashed car, leaving Mr Simenya to die.

DNA evidence identified Mayes as having been in the car.

The father-of-one later pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving in a stolen vehicle while uninsured.

Lionel Simenya (Police Scotland/PA)

Judge Lady Scott told the High Court in Edinburgh Mayes had a history of “persistent offending”, including four previous convictions for stealing motor vehicles, two for driving without valid insurance or a licence and another for driving while disqualified.

She sentenced the thief to seven years in jail – backdated to March – but reduced this to five years and three months as a result of the accused’s early guilty plea.

Mayes, who has an 11-month-old daughter, was also banned from driving for eight years and seven months.

Mr Simenya was 36 when he was knocked down and killed.

The chef, who was originally from Burundi, was working in Gorgie at the time.

Lady Scott said of the deceased: “He was a hard-working man with his life ahead of him. He was much-loved even though he was far from home.

“I have read the victim impact statement from his mother and it is heartbreaking.”

Lionel Simenya’s brother Yves (Tom Eden/PA)

Mr Simenya’s brother Yves said his family were “disappointed” by the length of time Mayes will spend behind bars “even though that won’t bring our brother back”.

He added: “I don’t think the sentence will let him appreciate what he’s done to us but it’s justice and we will reflect on this.”

Describing his brother, he said: “He was a really tough guy, a hard worker and a clever guy.

“He was young, he had all the life and it’s just sad that he was stopped in the middle of that.”

Before the fatal collision, Mayes had smashed the window of an Edinburgh garage to take the keys to a Peugeot 207 awaiting repair as part of an intended stealing spree in the early hours of March 7.

He showed no emotion as he was led from the court in handcuffs, although his lawyer said he had “rarely seen an accused person as remorseful as this young man.”