AN “extraordinarily dangerous” driver who killed an elderly man in a hit and run while being chased by police has been jailed for more than ten years.

Gavin Dawes had never passed a driving test and was already on bail for another dangerous driving offence when he hit and killed Jonos Sasvari on January 10.

He shot between two cars and through a red light at the Old Steine in Brighton just after 10pm, colliding with the 78-year-old who was crossing the road.

Dawes, 33, was yesterday jailed at Hove Crown Court for ten years and three months. Richard Woolgar, who admitted dangerous driving alongside Dawes before the crash, was sent to prison for one year.

Police gave chase when they spotted a Vauxhall Astra and Zafira speeding out of Coldean Lane and south on to Lewes Road.

They followed, believing the pair were racing and managed to come between them, flashing their lights to stop.

But Dawes, in the Astra behind, did a U-turn – which police followed – before turning back again.

Woolgar pulled over to stop, the court heard, and then was seen on CCTV speeding in Warren Road and along the junction into Freshfield Road.

Officers later found his Zafira parked outside Dawes’s previous home in Playden Close.

By now the chase between police and Dawes was “prolonged, persistent and deliberate” with CCTV footage showing the police car falling far behind the rising speeds of the Astra as it raced nearer to the city centre. Dawes clipped a car as he overshot the turning to Coombe Road and later forced another driver to stop on the junction from Edward Street into Grand Parade and reverse.

Prosecutor Elizabeth Lowe told the court experts measured his speed as 90mph in a 20mph zone filled with passing pedestrians and other cars.

Police car driver PC Nicholas Simmons said the driving was the most dangerous he had ever seen.

Dawes “slowed briefly” after hitting his victim before speeding off along Madeira Drive in his now badly damaged car.

He was seen abandoning the car near the Brighton Marina Asda and making a phone call.

The father of two handed himself in the following morning and Woolgar, who has two daughters, contacted police later that day.

Ms Lowe said: “He knew the police wanted him to stop and he didn’t. It was luck rather than judgement that there was only one fatality.”

Judge Jeremy Gold said Dawes drove in an “extraordinarily dangerous” fashion at a speed which was “wholly excessive” in an effort to “evade capture”.

He said: “You are directly and solely responsible for the death of a 78-year-old man who was minding his own business crossing the road.”

He handed Dawes, now of Phoenix Rise, Brighton, a nine-year sentence for causing death by dangerous driving and concurrent 12 month sentences for two counts of dangerous driving that night. He admitted the offences.

He was given a consecutive sentence of 15 months for dangerous driving in September, after being found guilty by magistrates, making a total of ten years and three months. He was banned from driving for 15 years.

Despite pleas from Woolgar’s barrister Beverley Cherill to avoid an immediate jail term, Judge Gold handed him a 12-month sentence and disqualified him from driving for three years.

The 35-year-old, of Donald Hall Road, was fined £600 – or faces two days in jail – for driving without insurance or licence but was told this would not affect his overall jail time. He also admitted the offences.

Road policing investigator Sergeant Richard Hornsey said Dawes has never answered any questions put to him and this had been a “challenging enquiry”.

An Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation into the police’s role in the incident is continuing.


JONOS Sasvari was “minding his own business” crossing a road when he was hit and killed by a car driven by Gavin Dawes.

CCTV captured the 78-year-old’s last moment alive, walking along the end of St James’s Street to the Old Steine crossing.

Dressed in a light chequered top and cap, he had just left one of the street’s betting shops which he frequented.

Warmly known by his friends as “Hungarian John”, he came to England after the country’s revolution in 1958 as an 18-year-old.

In the 1970s he worked at Churchill Steakhouse in Preston Street and later as a porter at The Atlantic Hotel on the seafront and as a kitchen porter in Mermaids chip shop in Western Road.

Friends and former employers described him as “totally trustworthy”.

Road policing investigator Sergeant Richard Hornsey said: “It’s difficult to imagine a case where a driver had so little regard for the safety of others than this one.

“Gavin Dawes wasn’t drunk or on drugs. He made a conscious decision that night to drive at grossly excessive speeds along urban roads and into the heart of Brighton.

“John had just left a betting shop and was making his way home when he used the pedestrian crossing at the Old Steine.

“He was in the middle of the crossing when he was struck by Dawes’s Astra and he was tragically killed.

“We are pleased Dawes offered a guilty plea and hope his sentence will act as a strong message to others that driving in a careless or dangerous manner has serious life-long consequences.”

Click here to read how Dawes is another member of the well-known Brighton family doing time