An ex-soldier crashed into a taxi on the M6, flinging the driver into the first lane – then left the scene to stay at a Holiday Inn.
Ben Cooke sped past an ambulance which was on an emergency call and travelling at 84mph, then swerved across it on to the hard shoulder, which was closed to regular traffic, where he undertook a number of other vehicles.
He then ploughed his BMW into a private hire Ford Focus knocking the driver, who had got out, into the middle of the motorway.
When paramedics stopped at the scene, Cooke, aged 35, told them he had not been behind the wheel then fled before police arrived, by flagging down another taxi which had stopped in the commotion. Meanwhile his stricken victim, who suffered a number of broken bones, lay in the carriageway.
However, he was arrested later the same day in a pub after police responded to reports of him rowing with his girlfriend. Cooke, of Chaucer Close, Tamworth, later admitted causing serious injury by dangerous driving. He was jailed for 18 months at Birmingham Crown Court on Monday, November 16.
The collision happened around 1am on December 22 last year, following rainfall, on the northbound carriageway between Junction 4 for Coleshill and Junction 5 for Castle Bromwich.
The taxi driver was returning home from his last drop in Solihull along the motorway, but it is not know why he pulled over on the hard shoulder.
Prosecutor Stefan Kolodynski said an ambulance crew was en-route to Hodge Hill after reports of a child with breathing difficulties. He said: “When they passed junction 4 they noticed a car driving up behind rapidly. It was the defendant in a BMW flashing his lights at the ambulance.
“The BMW was described as skidding in front. The driver of the ambulance didn’t have to brake but did take his foot off the accelerator. The BMW veered onto the near side of the motorway onto the hard shoulder.”
Cooke struck the taxi ‘propelling the driver into the lane one, narrowly missing other vehicles passing’, before the ambulance pulled up and parked in a way to block off the traffic.
Mr Kolodynski added: “The defendant exited his BMW and walked towards the crash barrier leaving the scene prior to the police’s arrival. He spoke to paramedics saying he was the passenger and wasn’t involved.
“He hailed a passing taxi and was taken to the Holiday Inn on Chester Road, Castle Bromwich. A booking-in form he filled in was later analysed but it was barely legible.”
Cooke was later arrested at the Old Stone Cross in Tamworth town centre around 6.50pm on suspicion of assault. It was only when he was in hospital the police received information that he was wanted for the M6 crash.
The taxi driver suffered a spinal fracture and multiple broken ribs as well as cuts, grazes and bruises. Mr Kolodynski said he was expected to make a full recovery but had not been able to work since the collision resulting in ’emotional and financial difficulties’.
Lee Marklew, defending, said Cooke was ’emotionally fraught’ at the time of the crash having rowed with his girlfriend, whose home he was driving to.
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He stated the ex-soldier served in Iraq and Afghanistan but was medically discharged in 2012 with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after his friend was killed during the latter tour.
Mr Merklow added that his client ‘struggles with grief, disillusionment and anger’, had been to jail for threatening to kill a former partner but had since tried to live positively, working as a tanker driver and being a responsible father to his two children.
“He is not a man criminally-minded by design,” he said.
Judge Peter Carr stated the ‘only appropriate sentence’ was to immediately jail Cooke, who he also disqualified from driving for four years and nine months.
He said: “It was extremely lucky as far as the victim was concerned his injuries were not life-threatening or life-changing.”