Vodka-swigging danger driver jailed AGAIN as gran dies six years after horror smash

Lewis Heslop was drunk, had no driving licence and was disqualified when he hit a pedestrian
-Credit: (Image: Durham Police)

A speeding driver who had been drinking for three days when he mounted a pavement and crashed into a mother has been jailed for a second time.

Lewis Heslop, 33, was sentenced to four years in prison for causing serious injury by dangerous driving in 2016. He has never passed a driving test and was disqualified from driving at the time of the crash.

He left Monica Lewandowska with serious brain damage. The grandmother, and mother of two daughters, was standing on the pavement of a quiet residential street, when Heslop came speeding around a corner, and lost control of the vehicle.

Ms Lewandowska, who was then 41, was knocked into the air and thrown onto the car bonnet, before she hit her head on the windscreen. She was briefly awake, before losing consciousness in the ambulance on the way to James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.

Ms Lewandowska never regained consciousness although she continued to breathe. She needed round-the-clock care and suffered seizures. A Polish national, she had moved to the UK in 2013.

She was taken into hospital from her care home in 2022, and died in Sunderland Royal Hospital on June 22 - aged just 47. The CPS then applied to the Attorney General for permission to prosecute Heslop for causing death by dangerous driving.

On Friday, Heslop stood in the dock at Teesside Crown Court, as Monica Lewandowska's mother and daughter watched on video link from their home in Poland. Ms Lewandowska had just signed a lease to rent a house and was walking along Easson Road in Darlington, at 4.45pm on Monday June 13, 2016.

She stopped walking to look at her mobile phone, as Heslop came round a corner at approximately 40mph. He was driving a friend's Hyundai Coupe after three days of drinking. The court heard that Heslop had fallen out with his girlfriend at the time, and was staying with pal Paul Midgley.

When he asked Mr Midgley if he could borrow his car, his request was refused. Jonathan Walker, prosecuting, told the court that Heslop, who had downed half a bottle of vodka that day, disappeared from the group and took the car anyway.

"He was heard revving the vehicle," Mr Walker explained. "Minutes later there was a crash. 100 metres before the crash site, he was doing twice the speed limit.

"He was travelling at between 22 and 28mph, in the 20-zone, at the time of the crash." The court heard that Mr Midgley "suffered a meltdown" at news of the collision and "blames himself for the defendant's actions".

Heslop had collided with a 'no parking' road sign and his car flipped over. He told police he had "turned right into the street and couldn't maintain the steering".

He said he "didn't feel drunk" but a roadside test found he was more then three times over the limit. Ms Lewandowska underwent emergency surgery for an acute subdural haematoma. Although she continued to breathe, she had unrecoverable brain damage.

Heslop, of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving at an earlier hearing. He was released from his sentence for causing Ms Lewandowska serious injury, in 2018. Prior to that sentence, he already had convictions for assault occasioning actual bodily harm and battery.

Four months before the fatal crash, Heslop was convicted of drug driving in November 2015. He had no insurance or driving licence. He was disqualified from driving.

Since his release, Heslop has racked up numerous shoplifting convictions. He has not been back in jail until late last year, where he has been held on remand, initially in HMP Birmingham, ahead of his latest sentencing.

'Alcohol and heroin'

In mitigation, Matthew Cullen, said that Heslop's "immediate reaction after the crash was to ask members of the public to call the emergency services". Mr Cullen said that his client has shown "significant and genuine remorse."

The court heard that Heslop has mental health behavioural problems "which relate to his dependence on alcohol and his inability to control his intake of alcohol, heroin and other substances." He was treated for psychosis when he was taken into prison in December, and remains on anti-psychotic medication. Heslop has a job in prison, making nets for the Army.

Judge Howard Crowson told Heslop: "On June 12, 2016, you were heavily intoxicated with alcohol that had been consumed over the past three days. Despite your friend's refusal to lend you his car, you drove away.

"As you came around the corner, you mounted the kerb and crashed into Monica Lewandowska. She was a much-loved mother, and grandmother. She survived, although she was seriously hurt.

"On June 23, 2022. Monica died. You bear a high level of responsibility for her death. You were more than three times over the drink drive limit.

"You were significantly in excess of the speed limit. You have never passed a driving test. You were a disqualified driver. You took the car against your friend's wishes.

"The suffering of Monica after the crash further aggravates your sentence. Mr Cullen says that at the time, you had a dependence on alcohol. It is my view that this is not mitigation. It was not your drinking that killed Monica, but your decision to drive when drunk."

Heslop was jailed for three years-and 11 months. He was sentenced to seven years and eight months, but the 45-months he has already served was deducted from his sentence. He was disqualified from driving for five-years, which will start when he is released from prison.