M11 death crash: Daniel Tilley forced Steve Lord's motorbike to crash into the central reservation – then left him to die on the road in the dark
A car driver who killed a motorcyclist on the M11 near Bishop's Stortford by swerving into him and then drove off into the darkness has today (Thursday Sept 26) been jailed for four-and-a-half years.
Killer Daniel Tilley, 38, from Harlow, would not have been brought to justice had it not been for "exemplary" police investigative work which identified the car involved just from its tail lights.
As a senior officer put it: “In less than a day-and-a-half we went from no witnesses on a pitch black morning to the culprit being in custody."
Tilley's car and Steve Lord's motorbike collided on the southbound stretch of the M11 between Stansted Airport and Harlow in the pitch black at around 5am on January 16 this year.
Mr Lord, a 63-year-old husband, father and grandfather from Dunmow, died at the scene. The car did not stop.
Initially police had scant information to go on about the identity of the car or the circumstances of the collision.
When officers studied automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras they established that some 5,000 vehicles were in the area at around the time of the collision.
Following a witness appeal, a lorry driver came forward with dashcam footage. But because the collision happened in the dark, all that was visible on the footage were the tail lights of vehicles passing the lorry.
An officer from Essex Police's forensic collision investigation unit was able to identify the car involved as a Ford Focus or Fiesta from the shape of its rear lights.
A witness had reported the car involved was blue and possibly a Focus or Fiesta, so officers were able to narrow down the number of possible vehicles from 5,000 to 50.
One of those vehicles was registered to Tilley.
When officers went to his home in Joyners Field, Harlow, soon after midday on January 17 – some 31 hours after the collision – they found his blue Ford Focus with damage on the driver’s side consistent with being caused by a collision with a motorbike. He was arrested.
When his mobile phone was forensically examined it was found he had carried out web searches, which he had deleted, for news and information about the collision – as well as for strong suction plungers, which police suspected he intended to use to fix his damaged car door.
At the collision scene, officers found a piece of debris around the size of a 50p which had come from Mr Lord’s motorbike. When it was analysed it was found it had paint on it which matched that of Tilley’s car.
Investigation established that Tilley had tried to undertake Mr Lord’s motorbike but pulled out of the move. The Ford Focus was then seen tailgating the bike before moving into the lane next to it, pulling alongside and swerving into it, causing Mr Lord to come off his bike and hit the central reservation.
GPS data from Tilley's car showed he was travelling at more than 100mph soon after the time of the collision. It also indicated he stopped at the top of the exit slip road at junction 7, for Harlow, and opened his door briefly before driving off. Officers believe this was to check the damage on his rear passenger door.
During his initial interview Tilley told officers he had a “momentary lapse of concentration that caused me to swerve from the outside lane into the inside lane” but denied any knowledge of hitting anyone.
However, he was charged with causing death by dangerous driving, failing to stop at the scene of a collision and failing to report a collision.
He admitted these charges at Chelmsford Crown Court on September 4. At the same court on Thursday (Sept 26) he was jailed for four-and-a-half years and banned from driving for four years and nine months.
'He was looking forward to walking his youngest daughter down the aisle, and having a long and happy retirement with his wife'
In a statement following sentencing, Steve Lord’s family said: “Steve was a wonderful husband, dad, grandad, brother, uncle and friend.
“The grief and heartbreak we feel is unbearable and near impossible to describe.
“His warmth, character and wit made him excellent company. He was a ferociously good storyteller and would often have us doubled over in hysterics.
“He loved his grandchildren and made sure he kept fit and healthy to spend more time with them.
“He was looking forward to walking his youngest daughter down the aisle, and having a long and happy retirement with his wife.
“All that has been taken away.
“Daniel Tilley had a choice. He could have stopped to help Steve, he could have called an ambulance, he could have admitted what he had done. He did none of these things and only admitted what he had done when it benefitted him to do so.
"As a family we did not get the same choices but have to live with the consequences. And we have to live with them without knowing why Tilley did what he did.
“As a family we want to express our disappointment that Daniel Tilley could not be sentenced for longer within the sentencing guidelines. He has taken Steve away but will serve less than five years in prison.
“We will be writing to our MP and adding our voice to the countless others who feel the sentencing guidelines do not reflect the devastating impact crimes of this nature have.”
'We only get one chance to collect the evidence needed to get justice for someone’s family so it’s really important we get it right'
Senior investigating officer Insp Rob Brettell, from Essex Police's serious collision investigation unit, said: “Daniel Tilley not only caused Steve Lord’s death but then drove off and took steps to cover it up.
“It took some exemplary police work to identify the car involved, trace it and gather evidence so strong it left Tilley with no option but to plead guilty.
“When we arrived at the scene we had few witnesses and the car involved had driven off.
“It is testimony to the exceptional knowledge of my team that we were able to identify the type of car involved solely by its tail lights.
“It then took excellent detective work to narrow the number of possible vehicles from 5,000 to 50 and then to Tilley’s.
“In less than a day-and-a-half we went from no witnesses on a pitch black morning to the culprit being in custody.
“When there are serious collisions on our roads we only get one chance to collect the evidence needed to get justice for someone’s family so it’s really important we get it right.
“Daniel Tilley will now spend years behind bars and I hope he uses that time to contemplate his actions."