Driver booked flights and fled to Slovakia after hitting ‘clever’ young man on M1 near Sheffield
The family of a ‘hard working’ South Yorkshire man ‘with a lot to look forward to’, who was hit by a car when he was walking on the M1, paid tribute to him at an inquest into his death.
Jake Phoenix Henry Glover-Brown, 25, of Pepper Street, Barnsley, was killed when he was hit by a Mercedes car on the M1 near Sheffield just before midnight on October 18, 2019.
Assistant coroner Tanyka Rawden heard that Jake was walking on the northbound side of the motorway, near J35A, having spent time at a pub with his brother-in-law shortly beforehand.
He was hit by a car in the third lane. The passengers fled the scene and left the country, however investigators were unable to prove the collision was the driver’s fault.
Investigating police officer Richard Thawley, of South Yorkshire Police, told the inquest: “This was initially reported to police as an abandoned vehicle, and only when a police officer arrived at the scene they found that it was in fact a road traffic collision with a serious fatality.”
Police established that the occupants of the car had fled to Slovakia and tracked them down to be brought back to the UK to be interviewed that December.
The driver – Lukas Kandrac – was eventually jailed for failing to stop at the scene of a collision.
PC Thawley said that the Mr Kandrac’s girlfriend, who had been in the passenger seat, returned to the UK first to give evidence.
Summarising her evidence, he said: "She described being in the passenger seat, looking at her phone, and said the vehicle was travelling normally.
"She recalled looking up and from her phone and seeing something in the middle of the motorway and identified it as a potential person.
"She screamed at the driver and he slammed the brakes on and the collision happened at that point.
"She said she closed her eyes but she was aware that the person they had hit was inside the car with them.
"She couldn’t bring herself to look but she could feel things that suggested that this person was inside the car as a result of the collision.
"The driver’s evidence was basically the same. He said he was not aware of the person until the collision happened.”
The inquest then heard that the occupants got out of the vehicle and were picked up by a family member.
They then went back to a house in Sheffield, changed clothes and booked flights to Slovakia.
Due to the fact that Mr Kandrac and his girlfriend left the country in October, and did not return to give evidence until December, police were not able to conduct drink and drugs tests.
"They took their time coming back, there’s no doubt,” said PC Thawley. “We cannot answer the question whether drink or drugs were involved.
"They say they panicked and left the scene. That is not uncommon. What is different in this case is that not only did they leave the scene but they left the country as well.
"From an investigator’s point of view that does not sit straight at all.”
As well as being unable to establish the full circumstances of the collision, the inquest was unable to explain why Jake was walking on the motorway.
The court heard that on the night of his death, Jake had been at the pub with his brother-in-law Damien Cummins.
A toxicology report found that Jake, who was a dental technician, had alcohol in his system equivalent to twice the drink drive limit.
PC Thawley said: “Speaking from experience this is not a quantity that would give Jake the idea that he was not in control of himself.
“However, when it came to crossing the motorway, it would have had an affect on his ability to judge speed and distance.”
He added: “There is no evidence to suggest that [Jake] deliberately tried to hurt himself.”
Forensic collision investigator Mike Senior said that the road conditions and weather were not a contributing factor to the collision.
However, he said the darkness and the fact that it would take the occupants of the vehicle extra time to process a pedestrian on the motorway due to it being so unusual contributed to a ‘perfect storm of conditions’.
Mr Senior explained: “Collisions can happen that are nobody’s fault. That is the brutal truth. Nobody was at fault for the collision in itself.
"What [the car occupants] chose to do after the collision? Well we all have opinions on that.
"[Jake] made a mistake. He was in the wrong place and he made the wrong decision.”
Jake’s family paid tribute to him at the inquest.
Mr Cummins said: “Jake was clever and quiet. He kept himself to himself. He was a hard working kid who had his head screwed on and knew what he wanted to do.
"He had just paid for the holiday of a lifetime travelling round Japan. He had a lot to look forward to.”
Assistant Coroner Rawden found that Jake Phoenix Henry Glover-Brown died of multiple trauma as a result of a road traffic collision.
She said: “I don’t think we are going to be able to answer the question of how did Jake end up there, or why did the driver and passenger leave the scene.
"It does not make any sense and for you that must be very difficult to deal with.”