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‘Anguish, grief, disbelief, anger, distress, and trauma’ for St Neots family of crash victim

‘Jacob was killed by Christopher Hick’s actions while at work’

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The family of 19-year-old Jacob Crawshaw of St Neots – who died in a crash on the A14 – paid tribute to him after the driver responsible for his death was jailed. But they also remain concerned that they will never know if the driver, Christopher Hicks, had taken drugs before the crash.

“Due to the failings of Northamptonshire Police on that morning we will never know if he was impaired by his use of drugs,” says the family of Jacob.

“We believe he was as Jacob sent a text message ‘my driver is stoned’ 10 minutes before the collision. We also have no doubts that he was driving dangerously.”

Jacob was the front seat passenger of a work van being driven by colleague Hicks, aged 44, on the westbound carriageway at around 4.50am on Sunday, October 17, 2021.

As Hicks drove the silver Volkswagen Crafter between junctions 11 and 10, he failed to react to a slower moving Volvo lorry ahead of him, colliding with the back of it and causing catastrophic damage to the passenger side of his van, killing Jacob instantly.

Hicks was arrested and later charged with causing Jacob’s death by dangerous driving.

Hicks, of Andrew Road, Eynesbury, St Neots, first appeared at Northampton Magistrates’ Court on January 9, 2023, with the case then sent to Northampton Crown Court.

He went on to enter a guilty plea to one count of causing death by careless driving, and at Northampton Crown Court on Thursday, February 29, Hicks was sent to prison for 30 weeks and banned from driving for three years and 15 weeks.

During sentencing, Jacob’s father James read a moving victim personal statement in which he described the devastating impact of the loss of his ‘amazing’ son on his family and friends.

He said: “On that Sunday morning police officers arrived to tell that us Jacob had been killed at the scene of a road traffic collision.

“I fell to my knees as my world crumbled before me in disbelief and immense pain. Our lives were turned upside down in an instant and nothing prepared us for the heartache, anguish, grief, disbelief, anger, distress, and trauma we felt.

“Our perfect family of five has been torn apart by the loss of our amazing Jakey… We are cruelly taunted by anniversaries, Christmases, New Years, Fathers’ Day, Mothers’ Day, family, and friends’ birthdays. The knowledge of his absence… cuts deep like a gaping wound.”

The father of Jacob ‘Jack’ Crawshaw (above) read a moving victim personal statement in which he described the devastating impact of the loss of his ‘amazing’ son on his family and friends

The father of Jacob  Crawshaw (above) read a moving victim personal statement in which he described the devastating impact of the loss of his ‘amazing’ son on his family and friends

Following sentencing, investigating officer Detective Sergeant Janette Maitland, of SCIU, said: “Jacob Crawshaw was a much-loved young man with a bright future ahead of him, but that future was snatched away by the failure of Christopher Hicks to drive safely and responsibly.

“That October morning he was driving over the speed limit that applied to his work van, and the concerning manner of his driving before the collision prompted Jacob to message a friend about it.

“Just 10 minutes later, Hicks failed to see the lorry he was approaching, take any safe avoiding action or even to brake before he hit it, and Jacob paid for this with his life.

“I would like to thank Jacob’s family for their support during our investigation, and I very much hope that they and his wide circle of friends can take some small comfort from knowing Hicks has admitted responsibility for the devastation he has caused and will spend time in prison as a result.”

A social media tribute page to Jacob says that he was “a precious and much-loved son of James and Tracey, amazing brother to Issy and Ben, treasured eldest grandchild to Terry and Fay and the late Norman and Carol. Adored by so many wider family and wonderful friends.

“Jacob had such a passion for life and always managed to do things with a spring in his step and smile on his face and could always be relied upon to bring happiness into the room when he entered it”.

After the court case, the tribute added that Hicks “destroyed the lives of his family and friends as we will never be the same without him.

The judicial process has acknowledged Christopher HICKS was speeding, driving carelessly including not braking before he drove the Volkswagen Crafter Van into the back of a Volvo articulated lorry killing Jacob instantly.

The father of Jacob ‘Jack’ Crawshaw (above) read a moving victim personal statement in which he described the devastating impact of the loss of his ‘amazing’ son on his family and friends

The father of Jacob Crawshaw (above) read a moving victim personal statement in which he described the devastating impact of the loss of his ‘amazing’ son on his family and friends

“A custodial sentence of 30 weeks for death by careless driving, with a 3-year driving ban does not reflect the life sentence we will all now have to face without our precious ‘Jakey’.

“Every day is full of pain, heartache, and loss as he will be forever 19. We can never see his cheeky smile again, hug him or hear his voice.

The statement added: “Despite initial serious failings by Northamptonshire Police in the first hours and days after the collision, we want to acknowledge the work of Northampton Serious Collision Unit since March 2023 for listening to our feedback, making significant improvements in their liaison with us and taking actions to prevent failings reoccurring in future serious collision investigations.

“We would like to thank our families, friends and the town of St Neots for their support through this unbearable time.”

It adds: “Our last words are a plea to everyone that if you feel unsafe as a passenger, please let someone know and ask the driver to pull over.

“To those who speed and take drugs before driving we plead with you to reconsider your actions.

“Jacob’s life was so precious, and he is missed every second of every day and it could have been prevented.”

In court the Crawshaw family’s victim statement was read out.

The father of Jacob ‘Jack’ Crawshaw (above) read a moving victim personal statement in which he described the devastating impact of the loss of his ‘amazing’ son on his family and friends

The father of Jacob  Crawshaw (above) read a moving victim personal statement in which he described the devastating impact of the loss of his ‘amazing’ son on his family and friends 

Victim personal impact statement

In full it said:

October 17th, 2021, is a day that is painfully etched on rewind in our minds. On that Sunday morning police officers arrived to tell that us Jacob CRAWSHAW had been killed at the scene of a road traffic collision.

I fell to my knees as my world crumbled before me in disbelief and immense pain. Our lives were turned upside down in instant and nothing preparing us for the heartache, anguish, grief, disbelief, anger, distress, and trauma we felt. Our beautiful, perfect, loving, and respected family of 5, brutally changed forever.

Jacob’s then 17-year-old sister opened the door, traumatised by that moment, the sight of a uniformed police officer causing flash backs and anxiety. We now ask police officers to attend our home in civilian clothes and in unmarked cars.

She describes it as the day Christopher HICKS ruined her life.

We relive the distress of phone calls to family and friends which are permanently etched and whirl through our minds to this day.

How can you ever forget the sorrow in Jacob’s best friends eyes, the screams of horror and sobs as we broke the tragic news to people, the letter from his childhood friend telling us ‘It was the worst day of my life’.

Jacob was our eldest son, an older brother, the eldest grandchild, eldest nephew and eldest cousin, his privilege as the eldest to be the one to break the ground for his siblings and cousins as he moved from childhood to adulthood.

His youngest cousins and second cousins are too young to remember him, they can only draw pictures or write letters for his grave or look at photos as they comment ‘I DIDN’T KNOW HIM, HE DIED’, the pain and heartache apparent on his parents and our faces.

We will never see him buy his siblings drinks at the pub when they turn 18 or take them out when they pass their driving test. His faithful friends stepping into these voids.

Our perfect family of 5 has been torn apart by the loss of our amazing Jakey. There are days you walk around sobbing, in distress because you want to talk to him, see him bound through the door, sing out of tune, or ask him something, unable to fathom what has happened.

Family time was so important to us, this has now been ripped apart.

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The father of Jacob ‘Jack’ Crawshaw (above) read a moving victim personal statement in which he described the devastating impact of the loss of his ‘amazing’ son on his family and friends

The father of Jacob  Crawshaw (above) read a moving victim personal statement in which he described the devastating impact of the loss of his ‘amazing’ son on his family and friends

We are cruelly taunted by anniversaries, Christmases, New Years, Father’s day, Mother’s day, family and friends birthdays. What should be joyful occasions, now raw and painful, full of tears.

The knowledge of his absence from engagement parties, weddings, stag do’s and lads holidays cuts deep like a gaping wound. We will never hear him give a best man speech.

The pain of Jacob’s death is met daily, there are so many reminders he’s gone:

  • the empty chair at the dinner table,
  • the unused golf clubs,
  • the silent guitar,
  • the drumsticks in their holder,
  • the unplayed gigs,
  • dirty football boots and shoes on his shoe rack,
  • the silence of his phone,
  • a song on the radio or one of his playlists,
  • the reminder of his favourite sandwich on the supermarket order,
  • the unused concert and football match tickets,
  • his absence from group photos a gaping void,
  • the loss of his cheeky smile,
  • the pain of realising the people he will never meet.

Some days have been too much to bear, an update from the police or CPS with details about the investigation or court proceedings. A message from his friends saying they miss him. The feeling of talking 2 steps forward and 3 steps back.

The devastation, heartbreak and pain of his loss has been felt across the community. As a family we are fortunate to live in a town which has shown a huge outpouring of love and compassion during this difficult time.

  • The week of his death Hunts FA grassroots matches held silences to honour Jacob who had referred matches for many clubs across ST NEOTS.
  • ST NEOTS football club cancelled their U18’s football match days after he died.
  • Luton Town Football Club honoured Jacob in the 19th minute of their home game 6 days after his death, watched by family and friends. After the match, the club said on Twitter: “Today was for you Jacob”.
  • In May 2022 a charity football match raised over £8,000 for the Road Victims Trust (RVT) and was attended by 800 people.
  • For Jacob’s 21st birthday in September 2023 the community of ST NEOTS again gathered to raise over £4,000 for the RVT at a second charity football match.
  • The impact of his death shown by the 40 young men and women who played in his honour on those days, his old team managers, and the hosting football clubs. They all miss him, the impact of his death shared in stories and the agonising silence when it hits them again that he’s not there.
  • In December 2023 the sixth form college Jacob attended created the ‘Jacob CRAWSHAW memorial cup’ to ensure his memory lives on for the ‘greatest contribution to sixth form life’ which is how his teachers wanted to honour him.

Jacob filled the room with his smile, he was never far from his phone, so many people told us after he died that he had sent encouraging messages about a game of football, a good night out, a new song to listen to or a new chapter in their lives and how he always had time for them.

They wanted us to know that these are the things they missed the most about him, his smile, his listening ear, a good night out and the encouragement.

Leaving home can be difficult for us. There have been many tear-filled conversations on the high street, restaurants, pubs or in the supermarket.

The father of Jacob ‘Jack’ Crawshaw (above) read a moving victim personal statement in which he described the devastating impact of the loss of his ‘amazing’ son on his family and friends

The father of Jacob Crawshaw (above) read a moving victim personal statement in which he described the devastating impact of the loss of his ‘amazing’ son on his family and friends

We may appear to have ‘everything together’ but underneath we are broken, sad and in immense pain, using all our energy to ‘hold it together’.

This is exacerbated by the fact the Christopher HICKS and his family live in the town of ST NEOTS, causing anxiety and fear when leaving home ‘what if we bump into him’ in the back of our minds. Employers have been supportive with plans in place if Christopher HICKS or his family members enter places of employment.

Jacob was killed by Christopher HICK’S actions while at work for Global Erecting Sign Services – G.E.S.S.

He had only worked with Christopher HICKS a few times and didn’t know him well.

He had established some good friendships with work colleagues, who miss him every day and have now left G.E.S.S. Jacob never spoke of Christopher HICKS by name.

On that day he put his trust in Christopher HICKS and the company to keep him safe whilst travelling to the job of the day.

We have not seen any remorse, sympathy, or empathy from Christopher HICKS (who was the company secretary of G.E.S.S).

G.E.S.S is owned by Christopher HICKS’ brother and his family have been in court to support him, causing pain and immense distress to those present, as the reason we are in this courtroom is that Jacob isn’t, making us feel that this has been forgotten or brushed to one side.

As a family we are now tormented by the advertising, company vehicles and event sponsorship we see in and around the town by G.E.S.S.

The sick feeling in your stomach, the shaking, the panic, and the overwhelming distress. You cannot control or plan when this may happen adding to the anguish.

We found it particularly upsetting and intimidating to see a G.E.S.S. vehicle in the car park on 2 occasions whilst attending court hearings. Attending court has been hard for us all, without added distress and discomfort or regard for us as a family.

Our work lives have been impacted adding financial pressures:

  • Jacob’s sister who worked with him at McDonalds tried to return to work, but the panic and anxiety of not seeing her brother in the kitchen too much for her to bear.
  • To attend court Jacob’s sister has had to take unpaid leave.
  • Tracey had to give up her part time job at the school where the children attended, and Jacob’s brother is a pupil.
  • Tracey was retraining when Jacob died, she has had to put job applications on hold and set aside her new business.
  • I have taken 10 days holiday to attend court or related meetings, the impact is that I have had less time to rest and enjoy family time in 2023.

Jacob’s sister and I take medication for depression and anxiety and have taken time off work due to the grief caused by Jacob’s death. The distress as a parent of seeing your child in pain and torment is heart wrenching. Seeing her hopes and dreams lost.

Disrupted sleep is now a regular part of our lives to this day. Counselling has been an important and invaluable element of coping with the devastation.

As family and friends of Jacob we have had over 500 hours of counselling, as well as the weekly counselling I embarked on cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) sessions in order to deal with the flashbacks and trauma. The flashbacks still occur today.

Jacob’s grandparents have woken every day at 4.51 am the time of Jacob’s death, the void of their loss unfathomable.

That Sunday morning, they were getting ready for church, the phone rang and the pain of hearing me broken and breaking the news tormenting them to this day. Sundays will never be the same, there are times they sit in silence for hours remembering him, too distressed to speak or move.

Jacob’s siblings have dealt with the pressures of GCSE, BTEC and A’ Level exams whist still processing and understanding the devastating loss of their brother.

As parents we are so proud of what they have achieved, but there will always be the question ‘how different would things have been’.

As a family we find journeys on dual carriageways hard.

Jacob died on a dual carriageway, and we are acutely aware of the impact this has on the distances and locations where we travel. Jacob’s siblings have attempted to learn to drive, the anxiety of the potential actions of other drivers too much for them to manage at this time.

My wife and I are haunted by the by the fact that we were unable to physically say goodbye to Jacob, the last thing we said was a shouted “GOODBYE, LOVE YOU” at 3.30am, he replied, “LOVE YOU”. Covid rules meant his body was identified by a police officer by his driving licence, a stranger not a loving face.

We desperately wanted to hold his hand and ruffle his hair for the last time, due to Covid restrictions this was not possible.

The suffering and torment stays with us, his injuries so great that the undertaker advised that we didn’t see his body. Our last time as family and friends was with a closed coffin at the funeral home. The pain of this is immense and doesn’t ease.

The father of Jacob ‘Jack’ Crawshaw (above) read a moving victim personal statement in which he described the devastating impact of the loss of his ‘amazing’ son on his family and friends

The father of Jacob Crawshaw (above) read a moving victim personal statement in which he described the devastating impact of the loss of his ‘amazing’ son on his family and friends

The last moments of Jacob’s life remain an agonising mystery, only Christopher HICKS knows what happened that day and he has remained silent.

The painful heart stopping reality is that Christopher HICKS was speeding and moved the steering wheel enough to save his own life walking away uninjured. Jacob’s side of the van and his body took the full force of the impact, dying instantly.

Jacob had been concerned enough to send a text message about Christopher HICKS being stoned to his friend, not realising how the events would unfold in the next 10 minutes.

We will never know if Christopher HICKS was impaired due to drugs, but Jacob thought he was, and we believe him.

The emotional and physical damage are extensive and wide reaching. I and my wife bear the distressing, grief intensifying, anger raising and sleep tormented questions was Jacob scared, did he ask to get out of the van, did he report his concerns and they were ignored? Only Christopher HICKS knows the answers.

The impact is panic, anxiety, depression, discomfort, and intense distress which are an everyday part of our lives. The lack of drugs testing by Northampton Police on the day intensifying our grief and pain.

Read more here:

https://jacobmemorial.org/

 

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