But yesterday Anthony Alexander Thomas admitted in Christchurch court that he lied to police about being in the passenger seat when his Subaru vehicle collided with cyclist Sean William Russell Innes.
He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defy justice after previously admitting to dangerous driving resulting in death and failure to stop and arguing injury.
Initially, a 44-year-old Ashburton man who has a provisional name listing was charged with the hit-and-run.
But Thomas, a 30-year-old farmer from Ashburton, later admitted he was behind the wheel after being “overcome with guilt” when 45-year-old Innes died in hospital two weeks later.
According to the summary of the facts, Thomas and his co-defendant traveled from Ashburton to Christchurch around 3 p.m. on September 13 last year.
Thomas was driving and his co-defendant was in the passenger seat when the car turned onto Linwood Ave, where traffic was heavy at the time.
As he approached stationary traffic at the intersection of Linwood Ave and Buckleys Rd, Thomas drove along the left shoulder of the road, designated for cyclists.
Innes, who was cycling, was hit from behind and pushed onto the hood of the car before being flung onto the road.
Thomas, who was traveling at least 73 km/h when he hit Innes, made no attempt to slow down or stop after the collision. Instead, he turned left and fled.
A short distance from the scene of the crash, Thomas stopped and switched seats with his co-defendant.
The man then drove the car towards Burwood, having to steer through the windshield damage while looking out the window.
The Subaru also had damage to the front bumper, headlights, and the driver’s side front and rear tires were deflated.
After the accident, witnesses reported seeing the vehicle traveling “significantly faster” than the posted 50 km/h speed limit and told police it had crossed the wrong side of the road, forcing other motorists to swerve out of the way.
Thomas and his co-defendant parked the vehicle in the residential red zone before fleeing across desolate land and swimming across Horseshoe Lake in Burwood.
Later that night, Thomas called the police and reported his vehicle stolen, claiming he woke up to find it missing.
His co-defendant took over the phone call and told police that he was indeed the driver at the time and responsible for the accident.
He said he was drunk and hit someone before dumping the vehicle and Thomas knew nothing about it.
Thomas agreed and his co-defendant was taken into custody.
But after learning that Innes had died as a result of the crash, Thomas came open and was arrested and charged.
He was remanded on bail under electronic surveillance ahead of his sentencing on May 4.
His co-defendant failed to appear in court, whereupon the judge issued a warrant for his arrest.
— Emily Moorhouse, Open Justice reporter