Stratford man in death ride has sentence cut

A Stratford man who was the passenger in a car which ran down and killed a father-of-two after a botched theft attempt has won a cut in his sentence.

Tommy Willett, 28, was in a car driven by his brother, Albert, in 2006 when it struck and drove over 54-year-old Balbir Matharu, after he stopped them from stealing from his van.

The brothers were found guilty of murder at the Old Bailey in 2008, but Tommy’s conviction was overturned by Appeal Court judges in July last year.

Tommy, of Clays Lane Caravan Site, was found guilty of manslaughter at Woolwich Crown Court in December last year after a retrial, but again appealed his conviction.

Three senior judges at London’s Court of Appeal rejected all his grounds of appeal against the guilty verdict, including a claim that jurors may have wrongly viewed him as a dangerous man after a witness was granted anonymity and her voice distorted.

Lord Justice Richards, sitting with Mr Justice Calvert-Smith and Mr Justice Underhill, said: “The grounds of appeal, whether considered individually or cumulatively, do not cast doubt on the safety of Willett’s conviction of manslaughter.”

However, the appeal judge cut Willett’s sentence from 16 to 14 years, of which he will serve half before qualifying for automatic release.

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He told the court: “His culpability as a passenger was lower than if he had been the driver and we have come to the conclusion that a sentence as high as 16 years does not take sufficient account of the fact he was the passenger.

“We do not think a sentence higher than 14 years can be justified on these facts”.

The court heard the brothers had tried to steal from Mr Mantharu’s work van, which was in a car park in Francis Street, Stratford.

When Mr Matharu returned, the brothers jumped into a Ford Mondeo and drove over the van owner, dragging him under the car as he tried to stop them getting away.

Mr Matharu died at Newham General Hospital four hours after the incident.