A driver who hit a pedestrian with his car and dragged him for more than half a mile has been jailed for at least 30 years for the “cruel” murder.
Martin Eastwood, 22, used a stolen Ford S-Max as a weapon to kill 25-year-old Liam Dent in revenge for a minor confrontation outside a pub. Having knocked Dent down, Eastwood, from Epsom, Surrey, drove at speeds of up to 32mph, dragging his screaming victim along in the early hours of 26 July 2019.
His friend Daniel Morris, 22, who admitted manslaughter, drove behind in a Volvo, frantically honking his horn for him to stop.
When Dent finally fell free of the Ford, he was still conscious, but suffering from horrific injuries. His family rushed to the scene in Chessington, south-west London, where he was pronounced dead.
Following a trial at the Old Bailey, Eastwood was found guilty of murder. On Wednesday, Judge Wendy Joseph jailed him for life with a minimum term of 30 years.
The court heard Eastwood had been convicted of two earlier incidents in which he used a car as a weapon.
Judge Joseph handed Eastwood concurrent sentences for grievous bodily harm with intent, attempted grievous bodily harm with intent, and robbery.
On the killing, she said: “If he did not realize at first someone was dragged under the car, he must have realized it almost immediately after.”
She noted that an expert had said the presence of a body would have had an effect “equivalent of driving with the handbrake on”. The judge said Eastwood must have heard his victim screaming.
Chronicling Dent’s extensive injuries, she said: “No one should die like that. No mother should have to sit in the road with her dying son on whom those injuries had been inflicted. There is no way around it: this was a cruel death.”
The judge banned Eastwood from driving for 10 years upon his release. Morris, 22, of no fixed abode, was jailed for five and a half years for his role in the killing.
Eastwood’s girlfriend, Jasmine Robinson, 19, of Epsom, Surrey, was found guilty of assisting an offender. She was sentenced to two years’ custody suspended for two years.
As Eastwood was sentenced, a woman screamed in the public gallery and Dent’s family became emotional.
Earlier, his mother, Stacey Dent, addressed his killer in the dock as she detailed the impact of his death on the family, including his young son.
She said: “On the night this happened, when I went to my son lying in the road, I could see all his injuries, Martin, I could see he had to be in so much pain from beginning to end.
“I could see immediately, despite the attempts to keep him with us, that he was not going to survive, and my heart was completely ripped apart and it remains that way. I cry every single day.
“I tried in the beginning to convince my children that Liam would have been unconscious on impact when he drove into him. But the evidence rolled out in court and it proved the absolute worst it could be. He was tortured and he was left for dead, screaming for help.
“Why couldn’t you have just stopped and spared my son his life?”
Prior to the fatal incident, the court heard that in September 2018, Eastwood had driven a stolen vehicle at a cyclist, knocking him to the ground and causing him multiple fractures. In April 2019, he had driven a stolen vehicle into a man, knocking him to the ground and causing him abrasions.