Edinburgh car thief who killed 'hard-working' chef in hit-and-run is jailed

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A car thief who killed a man after hitting him with a stolen vehicle has been jailed for five years and three months.

Unemployed Declan Mayes, 21, lost control of a Peugeot 207 even before he fatally collided with pedestrian Lionel Simenya.

Declan Mayes. Pic: Police Scotland

Declan Mayes. Pic: Police Scotland

READ MORE: Car thief who killed Edinburgh chef in hit-and-run was snared by DNA

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DNA evidence helped link Mayes, who has previous convictions for vehicle theft, housebreaking, assault and driving while banned, to the crash in the Saughton area of Edinburgh that claimed the life of Mr Simenya.

A judge told Mayes at the High Court in Edinburgh that victim impact statements provided from Mr Simenya's family were heartbreaking.

Lionel Simenya

Lionel Simenya

Lady Scott said the information before her showed he was a hard-working man with his whole life ahead of him.

The victim had pursued associates of Mayes who had tampered with his van.

The judge told Mayes: "I have to consider the aggravating factors and these are significant here - the fact that at the time you were driving a stolen car and driving while uninsured."

She said the father-of-one had "a significant record" for such offending.

But the judge said she also took account of his age and that he panicked during "a fast moving event".

Lady Scott told Mayes she would have jailed him for seven years, but for his guilty pleas. She also banned him from driving for eight years and seven months.

Mayes, of Hay Avenue, Edinburgh, earlier admitted causing the death of Mr Simenya, 35, on March 7 this year by driving dangerously at the city's Fords Road.

He lost control of the Peugeot, mounted a kerb and struck bushes and a fence before continuing to drive the damaged car and failed to avoid a collision with Mr Simenya, who was on the roadway, after failing to pay proper attention to the road ahead.

Mays also admitted breaking into Fair Deal Autos, in Fords Road, and stealing a key safe and keys and stealing the Peugeot.

He also pled guilty to causing the victim's death by driving at a time when he was uninsured.

Mr Simenya, who was born in the African state of Burundi, arrived in Scotland in 2011 and trained as a chef. His chef's knives and work clothes were among his personal possessions found in his van nearby in which he was temporarily living.

Advocate depute Liam Ewing told the court that the victim suffered extensive skull fracturing and traumatic brain injury in the smash.

Following the break in at the garage Mayes and another stole the car from outside the premises.

Mayes was driving and as he turned the car he lost control and hit a hedge and fence before driving a short distance when he struck Mr Simenya. He continued on before striking a wall after he lost control again.

Collision investigators said that when the car was being driven in the direction of where the victim's body was found the driver would have had a clear line of sight, said Mr Ewing.

He said: "Although the incident occurred in the hours of darkness there was street lighting and any driver driving with the lights on ought to have been able to see a person standing in the roadway."

"The accused, when driving the vehicle, has in a relatively short distance lost control of the vehicle, striking the hedge and fence, struck the deceased and then crashed the vehicle into the wall," he said.

The advocate depute said: "In the opinion of the investigators Mr Simenya was clipped by the nearside of the car, causing him to spin off to the left and fall. As he has gone down his foot was caught in the vehicle and it has driven over him."

Local residents came across the abandoned car with its lights still on and found Mr Simenya lying face down in the road. They called emergency services and began chest compressions but noticed he had suffered a severe head injury.

A blood mark was found in the car which provided a DNA match to Mayes and his genetic fingerprint was also discovered on the key for the Peugeot which was still in the ignition.

Police armed with a search warrant turned up at Mayes home on March 15 but no one was at the address. Mayes handed himself in the following day. He was originally arrested on suspicion of murder and gave a "no comment" interview.

Defence counsel Gordon Jackson QC said it was an "unusual" offence and added: "The driving arose from another crime and the idea was, I am not sure if it was his idea or other people's, to steal motor cars, no doubt to drive around and simply leave them."

"They got a motor car and he, Declan Mayes, was in the driving seat. I think others sought to open the van in which the now unfortunate deceased was sleeping by trying the door."

"He went out the van and chased the other people who had been with Declan Mayes with a large knife," said Mr Jackson.

He said Mayes saw the pursuit and went into a panic and started the car and "pretty much lost control of it".

The defence counsel said: "What seems to have happened to make the tragedy even more tragic, if that was possible, is he struck the now deceased on the leg and something got caught."

"There was no excess speed involved and indeed nine times out of 10 there would have been a broken leg and criminal proceedings, but nothing like the tragedy that we have here," he added.

Mr Jackson said of Mayes: "I have rarely seen an accused person so remorseful. As he says to me he will have to live with this for the rest of his life."