A drink driver who hit and killed a cyclist in Huntingdon before fleeing and hiding in a field has been jailed.
Damian Ralph, 38, was driving his Hyundai Terracan in Sapley Road towards Huntingdon and the A141 at 10.40pm on 1 November when he struck cyclist Christopher Mardlin.
Mr Mardlin, of The Whaddons, Huntingdon, was wearing a hi-vis jacket with reflective strips while his bike also had working reflectors and lights.
The collision knocked Mr Mardlin, 58, off his bike and he was later pronounced dead at the scene.
Ralph left the scene but crashed his car into a hedge about half a mile further down the road. He then attempted to drive round the field and back out.
Police attended after being called by another motorist and the NPAS helicopter tracked a heat source nearby which revealed Ralph hiding in a ditch a few metres from the car.
He was breathalysed and, at 12.20am, provided a reading of 89microgrammes of alcohol in 100ml of breath – more than double the legal limit of 35microgrammes.
Ralph, of Glebe Farm, Kings Ripton, Huntingdon, was arrested on suspicion of drink driving and causing death by dangerous driving.
A further evidential breath test was taken at the police station where Ralph gave a reading of 72 microgrammes of alcohol in 100ml of breath.
In interview Ralph told officers he had got behind the wheel because he was concerned his child may have been left unattended while his ex-partner went to work. He told officers he drove to Huntingdon to see if he could see the woman leaving work and prove this.
Ralph claimed he didn’t remember hitting a cyclist and would have stopped if he had known, despite damaged car parts from the scene being matched to his vehicle.
He said that after crashing into the ditch, he got out the car as he was disorientated and then fell asleep in the field nearby.
A forensic collision investigation revealed there was no evidence of a car braking before or after the crash.
Ralph pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving whilst over the legal alcohol limit at Peterborough Crown Court on 1 December.
He was sentenced at Cambridge Crown Court on 31 January, where he was handed a total of seven years and six months in prison, and disqualified from driving for seven years and nine months, with the requirement to take an extended retest.
Detective Sergeant Mark Dollard, of the Beds, Cambs and Herts (BCH) Road Policing Unit, said: “This is yet another case which highlights the utter devastation and life-changing impact someone can cause by getting behind the wheel after drinking.
“Ralph’s driving was appalling but not only that he then fled the scene, leaving Mr Mardlin to be found by the next passing motorist. Ralph crashed his car not long after and was found thanks to help from the NPAS helicopter.
“It is beyond belief that we still have to talk about the dangers of drink or drug driving.
“While Ralph thought he was safe to drive, the truth was he was anything but. The decision he made will no doubt stay with him for life and this case should serve as a stark warning to others.
“People can help us make the roads of Cambridgeshire safer for everyone by confidentially reporting others they suspect of driving while under the influence.”
Ralph’s sentencing comes after a total of 69 motorists were arrested on suspicion of drink or drug driving in December as the force cracked down on those driving under the influence.
Out of these, 48 were charged and 21 were sentenced the same month. Those sentenced were banned from the roads for a combined total of 34 years.
In addition, calls to the force’s confidential hotline to report drink or drug drivers almost tripled. There were 20 calls made in December 2020 compared to 57 calls made in December 2021 – an increase of 185%.
The dedicated, confidential hotline: 0800 032 0845 is available 24/7, and gives people the chance to supply the police with information to help reduce the number of drink or drug drivers on the county’s roads.