Anguish and heartbreak over a man killed by a drunk driver

Keith 'Robbie' Roberts SUS-161019-101142001
Keith 'Robbie' Roberts SUS-161019-101142001

A woman whose brother was killed by a drink-driver told this week of her family’s heartbreak following the tragedy.

Keith ‘Robbie’ Roberts, from Slinfold, died when his sports car was hit head-on on the A24.

His sister Alison Longhorn said: “It shouldn’t have happened. Robbie was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Robbie, 58, died after being airlifted to St George’s Hospital in Tooting following the crash in December 2014.

Alison was at home in Oak Tree Way, Horsham, when police told her that Robbie was critically injured and she rushed to be with him - eventually sitting holding his hand in hospital until he died.

And after the man who caused the crash - and who was nearly twice over the legal alcohol limit at the time - was jailed this week, Alison urged other people to think twice before attempting to drive after drinking.

“I would say just don’t do it,” she said. “Think of the consequences. Why put your own and other innocent people’s lives at risk?”

She said she and Robbie’s family were satisfied that the man responsible for her brother’s death had been sent to prison but that any sentence would not be long enough “because it will never bring back Robbie into our lives.” And she added in a statement read to the court: “I am so angry that he was wiped out this way after he had innocently spent an evening out. It is so unfair.”

She said Robbie - who had an illustrious 30-year career with the Royal Navy - had “a zest for life” and was “one of life’s gentlemen.”

Robbie’s father sadly died soon after Robbie. “He simply gave up, knowing his son had gone,” said Alison who added that the whole family had been left “shocked and devastated to the core” by Robbie’s sudden and tragic death. “He went so quickly most of his family were unable to get to see him in time to say goodbye.”

Robbie was given a military funeral, organised and attended by the Royal Navy’s State Ceremonial Training Officer.

The man who caused the head-on collision - Gary Holmes, 44 from Ashtead in Surrey - was jailed for four years at Isleworth Crown Court on Monday.

He was also banned from driving for seven years after being found guilty of causing death by careless driving following the collision on the A24 in the early hours on December 13, 2014, Surrey Police said.

The court heard that Holmes had spent a busy day working before meeting a friend in Leatherhead, during which time he consumed a number of alcoholic drinks, later shown to be almost twice the legal limit. After eating a meal, the two men went to a nightclub and then, despite the offer of a bed for the night, Holmes decided to drive home to Ashtead, a police statement said.

Just two miles before reaching his home address, Holmes failed to negotiate a bend on the A24 at Leatherhead and crashed head-on with a vehicle being driven in the opposite direction by Robbie Roberts.

Det Sgt Gary Wright said: “Mr Roberts’ death was solely down to the bad choices Holmes made that evening.”

The judge rejected a claim by his defence that a previously undiagnosed sleep apnoea condition had been responsible for the collision, police said.

DS Wright said police would continue to target “dangerous individual drivers who put themselves and others at risk by being under the influence of drink or drugs.

“If you are caught you are most likely going to lose your licence, which could affect your job, increase your insurance premiums or in the worst of cases go to prison for killing someone which will be on your conscience for the rest of your life.”

He added that Mr Roberts’s life was “taken unnecessarily and we will continue to do everything we can to stop and prevent offending motorists in a bid to prevent collisions and save lives on the roads across the county’s road network.”

Meanwhile, family and friends of Robbie Roberts have raised a considerable amount of money for the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance and St George’s Hospital’s intensive care unit following Robbie’s death.

They are urging more people to support the air ambulance service. Robbie’s sister Alison Longhorn said: “If anyone would like to donate to the air ambulance service in Robbie’s memory we would be very grateful as you never know when you might need their help.”

The family are now also hoping to complete a sponsored walk for BRAKE, a charity for road crash victims. It works to prevent road casualties, make communities safer, and support families suffering the aftermath of a road crash.