FIVE teenage boys told of the night their friend was struck by a hit-and-run driver and killed, leaving them to search for his body in the pitch dark. The group was walking home to Ramsey from a sixth form disco at The Lion Pub in Ramsey St Mary s. Peterb

TOM JONES

FIVE teenage boys told of the night their friend was struck by a hit-and-run driver and killed, leaving them to search for his body in the pitch dark.

The group was walking home to Ramsey from a sixth form disco at The Lion Pub in Ramsey St Mary's.

Peterborough Magistrates' Court heard that Ramsey Abbey pupil Tom Jones disappeared in seconds, leaving his shocked friends to search for him, calling out his name.

Before District Judge, Brian Loosley, the five were obliged to re-live the horror of that night, describing how they used the light from their mobile phones to flag down cars to stop and help them.

NEIL SIMPSON

Tom, 17, from The Great Whyte, Ramsey, was killed by a taxi driven by Neil Simpson, 50 from Bottels Road, Warboys. The collision was around 12.20am on April 29 April last year.

The court heard that Tom collided with the car on the off-side, rolling up on to the windscreen, shattering it, tearing off a wing-mirror and damaging the off-side of the car.

Simpson - who did not stop and denied the accident for months, saying he had hit a deer on a road in Upwood - denies driving without due care and attention. At Huntingdon Magistrates' Court in December, eight months after the accident, Simpson pleaded guilty to six other charges including dangerous driving, failing to stop after an accident, failing to report an accident and three counts of using a vehicle without insurance.

The dangerous driving relates to Simpson's using his damaged taxi to go straight from the collision with Tom to pick up a group of girls from the same party Tom and his friends were walking home from. At the time, Tom's blood was on the car.

However Simpson used a different route on the way back, avoiding the B1040 St Mary's Road where he had hit Tom.

Tom, captain of Ramsey Colts Under 17s and bassist with the award-winning teenage band Inkus, drowned when Simpson's vehicle threw him into the River Nene beside the road. The court heard that had he not drowned, it would have been unlikely that he would have survived his injuries.

The boys had walked in two groups of three. It had been Tom who had called out to the others that cars were coming. One of the friends, Nicolas Reed, said he could feel the force of Simpson's car as it went past.

Another, Tom Merrell, told the court he had seen Tom, six feet away on his right, seem to make a "minimal movement" with the upper half of his body towards the road.

"I turned to Jon on my left because I had seen the others and he was the only one I had not checked. As I turned, I heard a noise, a loud crack. I turned back and Tom was gone."

He and the other boys, began to search for Tom in the bushes and call out his name. They found the T-shirt Tom had been carrying and the broken wing mirror from Simpson's car.

Stephen Ankers, who had been standing a few feet from Tom, said: "You could tell the car was going very fast, it was going on the bumps and looking very dodgy, you could see the suspension going up and down as it was coming towards us. It was nearly in the middle of the road."

The court heard that there was a dip in the road just before New Abbey Farm. Investigating officer, Pc Stephen Edwards said: "It is a severe dip in the road. It can unsettle a vehicle and take it off course."

However, Pc Edwards said it was impossible to calculate how fast the car had been travelling. There were no skid marks on the road and - because Tom had landed in the river - the distance his body would otherwise have travelled could not be measured. Pc Edwards said Tom had been hit when he was standing on the carriageway.

Sixthformer Paul Fletcher, one of a group of four taken to the party at 8pm that evening, said Simpson had been driving "quite fast". He said: "We overtook a number of vehicles at high speed near the river, which is a dangerous place to overtake. As we got out of the car, we all passed comment on how quickly we were going. I believe we were exceeding the speed limit."

Defending Simpson, Greg Perrins said: "What took place is a tragic accident. It is not a criminal offence. It is inevitably difficult to assess speed on a dark road with little lighting and few reference points. For some reason which is not clear, and may never be clear, Tom moved into the carriageway and was struck by the car. Tragically, the collision was inevitable and unavoidable and not the fault of Mr Simpson."

Judge Loosley will deliver his verdict today (Wednesday).