‘There will never be another Patch’: owner of horse killed in hit-and-run speaks out after driver sentenced

  • Two riders involved in a hit-and-run that killed one of their horses have spoken out about the tragedy – as the driver is banned from the roads.

    Karen Harvey, 62, and Charlotte Speer, 28, were riding Patch and Alfie along Church Lane, in Earl Soham, Suffolk, on the morning of Saturday 22 October 2022, when a car came “hurtling” towards them.

    Charlotte told H&H that Alfie reacted and she was thrown off into a ditch. As Patch spun around the driver “ploughed into” his back legs, and although Patch remained on his feet and Karen stayed on, he was seriously injured and had to be put down at the scene.

    “The driver obviously attempted to try and brake but he was going at such a speed there was no way he could stop,” said Charlotte.

    “I wasn’t knocked out but I had hit my head, I remember grabbing tufts of grass and pulling myself out of the ditch – and as I looked up I saw the car accelerate away. It then dawned on me what had happened and I could hear Karen screaming.

    “Alfie had stopped on a verge and I brought him back while we dealt with Patch. But having to walk him away from Patch at the scene afterwards was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. He’s not been the same since.”

    Thanks to social media and CCTV from a local butcher’s shop, the driver’s details were found the same day and passed to the police. On the Monday the driver handed himself in.

    On 21 March 2023 Edgaras Tilmantas, 34, of Kesgrave, was sentenced at Ipswich Magistrates’ Court, having pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to driving without due care and attention, failing to report a collision, and failing to stop at the scene of a collision.

    He was banned from driving for nine months and given a one-year community order which states he must complete 250 hours of unpaid work. He was fined £854, and must pay a £114 victim surcharge and £105 costs.

    “I’d never been to a court hearing before, and it was not a nice experience to be faced with someone that’s done that to you. He didn’t look at us,” said Charlotte.

    “We had been speaking to the British Horse Society director of safety Alan Hiscox and we were briefed on roughly what the driver could get, and although the sentence sounds very tame, I think we are lucky as so many cases have been dropped and not made it to court. So we’re grateful for that.”

    Karen added that she would have liked the driver to be made to re-sit his driving test.

    “I don’t want anyone to go to prison, but clearly his driving is a concern and very dangerous, and I feel he should have to take his test again before he’s allowed back on the road,” she said.

    “In court his defence was that he didn’t stop because he was frightened, and you just hope he’s scared himself enough to never ever behave like that again behind the wheel of a car.”

    Karen has not bought another horse since losing Patch, who she had owned for 13 years.

    “He was 20, but he was fit and fabulous. There will never be another Patch, he was great fun and loved by all of our family,” she said.

    “Where we live we have to use that lane to get to any bridleways and I just can’t imagine ever riding there again. I want to be brave, but I just can’t. I can’t walk up it let alone ride up it. I’ve now got a very sad stable yard and lovely fields with nothing in them, apart from Alfie.”

    Karen said she and Charlotte want to make people aware of what happened and keep talking about Patch.

    “There’s got to be some sort of legacy. I think that’s why we feel we need to keep talking because otherwise, he’s just gone and I feel more people should be aware,” she said.

    “We live in a very horsey community and lots of people have told me they won’t ride on the roads now after what happened and that really makes me so sad. It’s such a shame because as riders we should feel safe enough to ride on the road.”

    You might also be interested in:

    Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.

    You may like...