The driver who mowed down and killed Sussex police officer PC Jeff Tooley was today jailed for seven years.

Convicted robber John Heaton claimed he nodded off at the wheel when traffic policeman PC Tooley, 26, attempted to stop his van at a speed check in Brighton Road, Shoreham.

Chichester Crown Court heard Heaton, 48, has been drinking before the accident and was probably over the legal limit.

His barrister, Richard Camden-Pratt QC, blamed work fatigue and drink for Heaton nodding off at the wheel as PC Tooley was stepping into the road to try and stop the van.


The court heard Heaton panicked and drove to Devil's Dyke after the accident, where he torched the van in a bid to destroy the evidence.

PC Tooley died 12 hours after being hit by the van just before midnight on April 24 this year.

Richard Cherrill, prosecuting, described PC Tooley as "an experienced, committed and highly-motivated officer".

He said PC Tooley had acted perfectly properly during the speed check. He said: "It is the Crown case that he did not put himself in danger."

Mr Cherrill said a colleague of PC Tooley's was booking

a speeding motorist when PC Tooley saw a white Renault van which he clocked on his laser gun at 51mph in the 30mph zone.

He said the officer was wearing highly-

visible uniform including a fluorescent jacket

and was holding a torch.

Mr Cherril said: "The evidence is that as the van approached there was no decrease in speed. The van moved to the middle of the road and PC Tooley also moved to the middle, no doubt expecting the van to stop - but stop it did not.

"It lifted him off his feet and 60 to 70ft away he was deposited in the road."

Mr Cherril said Heaton was arrested after going to his solicitor's office three days after the accident.

The court heard Heaton had previous convictions dating back to 1966 and had served prison sentences of seven years in 1977 for attempted robbery and eight years in 1982 for robbery.

Heaton told officers he drove off because he used to be a criminal. "I just went back to basics," he said.

Heaton, of Newmarket Road, Brighton, had pleaded not guilty to charges of causing death by dangerous driving and doing an act intended to pervert the course of justice by setting fire to the van at a hearing last month. The case was due to be heard by a jury in January. But today he changed his pleas to guilty.

PC Tooley, of Lancing, went to Felpham Community College, near Bognor.

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