Unlicensed driver ran over motorist, then fled

Ian Johnson died in Wellington Hospital almost three weeks after the crash. Photo: supplied
Ian Johnson died in Wellington Hospital almost three weeks after the crash. Photo: supplied
An unlicensed driver “panicked” and fled after she fatally struck and ran over a motorcyclist.

Fatima Mohammed, 48, driving a Honda CR-V, did not stop after running over Ian Charles Johnson with both the front and rear sets of her car’s wheels at a Hastings roundabout last June.

Police found her later at the house of a friend.

Johnson, 73, died in Wellington Hospital almost three weeks after the crash, having suffered multiple injuries including fractures of his ribs and spine.

“Our days are achingly quiet without him,” his daughter, Rachael Crilly, said in a victim impact statement she read to the Hastings District Court on Friday.

“Our lives will never be the same.”

About a dozen family members and friends gathered in the court to see Mohammed sentenced to community detention, community work and supervision. There were small murmurs of disquiet as the community detention sentence was announced.

Mohammed had previously pleaded guilty to charges of careless driving causing death and failing to stop after an accident to ascertain injury.

Crilly said she was “heartbroken” and the death of Johnson, known as “Pa” by his grandchildren, left a void that could not be filled.

The court was told that Johnson had been responsive when emergency services arrived at the scene, but did not regain consciousness after undergoing surgery – the first of several operations as clinical staff battled unsuccessfully to save his life.

The collision happened on June 13, 2023. Johnson died on July 1.

Crilly said he “fought bravely” for his life.

“He wasn’t ready to go. He wasn’t ready to leave his family and friends,” she said.

Johnson’s brother-in-law Paul Peetoom said more than 200 people had attended the funeral in Palmerston North.

He said he found it “absolutely abhorrent” that Mohammed had driven over Johnson and then kept driving, leaving him lying on the road.

“Two lives were thrown away by your actions – Ian’s and yours,” he said.

“I hope that every day when you wake up that is the first thing on your mind.”

But Mohammed’s lawyer, Ben Frendin, said she was deeply remorseful.

She had previously lived a “good pro-social life”, had tried to help people, and had never been before a court before.

Police prosecutor Emily Richards, however, said the fact that Mohammed was an unlicensed driver and had failed to stop were aggravating factors.

She said police had to go looking for Mohammed after the crash, which happened at the roundabout at the intersection of St Aubyn St and Willowpark Rd.

Judge Bridget Mackintosh called the case “utterly, utterly tragic” and said Johnson’s death would leave a “massive gap” in the lives of his loved ones.

“There is nothing I can say that can reflect the hurt and grief that has been expressed by these people who are here today,” the judge said.

She said Mohammed had “panicked” after striking Johnson and had only a vague memory of what happened.

Mohammed had pleaded guilty, expressed extreme remorse and would have liked to apologise to the family in person.

A family member said outside the court, however, that the sentencing hearing was the first time they had heard about the possibility of a restorative justice meeting.

Judge Mackintosh said a case of this type was difficult because careless driving was a charge with a lower penalty and there was no way she could impose a sentence which reflected the emotional impact on the victims.

The maximum sentence for a charge of careless driving causing death was a short term of imprisonment but in such circumstances it had to be commuted to a community-based sentence.

She ordered three months of community detention with a curfew to be at home from 7pm to 8am every night.

She also imposed 150 hours of community work, 12 months of supervision, and ordered reparation of $15,599.

Mohammed is a beneficiary and Frendin told the court that she would be able to pay $30 to $40 a week, meaning it would take her years to pay off the reparation amount.

She was also disqualified from driving for two years but Frendin said she had not been behind the wheel since the accident and had no intention of doing so.

- By Ric Stevens
Open Justice reporter