Wednesday, 28 Oct 2020

Mum 'lucky to be alive' after being mowed down in 50mph hit-and-run

A mother-of-four is ‘lucky to be alive’ after being run over by a speeding driver who was three times over the limit.

Abeer Bilal, 40, was thrown up into the air and left lying face-down on the kerb after Stefan Ulchianu’s Audi A1 ploughed into her at around 50mph as she crossed the road on her way home in Cardiff shortly before 11pm on April 10 last year.

The city’s crown court heard that Ulchianu, 28, carried on driving despite the corner of his windscreen being caved in by the impact. He parked in a road nearby and walked to a friend’s house where he slept on the sofa before handing himself in to police the following morning.

Mrs Bilal suffered ‘extremely serious and life-changing injuries’ in the collision, including skull and spinal fractures, broken ribs and a bleed on the brain. She spent six weeks in intensive care and could not leave hospital for nine months after a number of complications during her treatment.

She was eventually transferred to a facility in London when her husband, Nawaf Ghali, 40, and children moved to be closer to their extended family for support.

Mrs Bilal said: ‘The accident has changed my life. I’m not sure how I will be in the future – whether I will be able to walk or do things with my children.

‘I don’t know if I will be able to swim with my children again, or ride a bike, like we used to. I’m lucky to be alive but the person who did this has taken so much away from me.’

She said everyday life is still ‘extremely difficult’ and she has to use a wheelchair most of the time.

Prosecutor Owen Williams told Cardiff Crown Court that CCTV footage from a number of city centre bars and restaurants showed Ulchainu drinking pints, bottles of lager and a vodka and coke throughout the evening.

He and a work colleague eventually called it a night at around 11pm. His pal said Ulchianu offered him a lift when he said he would get the bus home.

The pair made their way to the St David’s shopping centre car park where further footage shows him struggling to retrieve a ticket before veering through the barriers.

Clearly unsteady at the wheel, he can be seen clipping the kerb on his way through.

Ulchianu’s passenger told police they turned the radio up as he sped past other motorists on the road.

He described hearing a loud bang as he glanced down at his phone, telling Ulchianu: ‘I think you’ve just hit something.’

The court heard the driver replied: ‘I don’t think I did. I didn’t see anything.’

He was estimated to have been travelling at at least 51mph in the 30mph zone before the impact.

A forensic scientist also estimated he had 110mg of alcohol in 100ml of breath at the time of the crash – more than three times over the limit.

Ulchianu, from Swansea, initially denied drink-driving, causing serious injury by dangerous driving, and failing to stop but changed his pleas before his trial was due to start.

Defending, Heath Edwards accepted the defendant’s decision to get behind the wheel was ‘utterly reckless’ and told the court he left the scene because he ‘panicked’.

He added: ‘He knows there is nothing he can do, there is no price he can now pay that will undo the harm he caused on the night in question.

‘Every day he thinks about the events of that night. Every day he wishes he could turn back the hands of time. He knows he cannot do that – he must be punished for his behaviour.’

Judge Richard Twomlow jailed him for three years and two months and disqualified from driving for four years from the time of his release. He also ordered Ulchianu must pass an extended test before being allowed to drive again.

He told him there were no sentencing guidelines for causing serious injury by dangerous driving, adding that judges can use the guidelines for causing death by dangerous driving.

He added: ‘This could easily have been such a case.’

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