UPDATE: Serial car thief could face life for killing child actor Makayah McDermott and aunt Rosie Cooper
PUBLISHED: 14:26 03 February 2017 | UPDATED: 14:26 03 February 2017
Joshua Dobby admits two counts of manslaughter
A drug addict from a wealthy background could be facing life behind bars for mowing down a child actor and his aunt as he sped away in a stolen car during a police chase.
Convicted car thief Joshua Dobby, 23, was out on licence when he ploughed into Makayah McDermott, 10, and Rosie Cooper, 34, as they walked along Lennard Road in Penge.
On the afternoon of August 31 last year, Ms Cooper had been taking Makayah and other children to have ice creams and play on the swings.
Dobby was driving a black Ford Focus at three times the speed limit down one-way roads and jumped red lights before he lost control and crashed into the group.
He leapt out of the wreckage and fled on foot, leaving police officers to desperately try to save the victims.
The defendant had a cocktail of drugs in his system when he killed Makayah and Ms Cooper, including cocaine, heroin and morphine, sources revealed.
However, the court heard that toxicology tests were unable to establish whether he was under the influence of drugs, only that he had used them previously.
The defendant had also spoken about drugs in a letter to his girlfriend, the court heard.
Dobby admitted causing death by dangerous driving and injuring Makayah’s sister but only entered guilty pleas to the more serious charges of manslaughter days before his trial was due to start.
He was also convicted of dangerous driving relating to an incident on August 26 last year on the A228 near Snodland in Kent.
Makayah’s grandfather Martin Cooper and other family members attended the Old Bailey hearing before Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC.
Dobby appeared via video link from Highdown prison in Surrey wearing a black T-shirt and a string of beads. He spoke only to confirm his name and enter guilty pleas.
Judge Hilliard ordered a report on Dobby’s potential dangerousness and adjourned sentencing until March 10.
He warned the defendant he faced a long prison sentence given his “grave offences”.
Death by dangerous driving carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison but, in an unusual move, the Crown also brought manslaughter charges.
It means that, following consideration of Dobby’s potential danger to society, a judge has the option of imposing a discretionary life sentence.
The judge said it was clear Dobby was driving dangerously in August 26 last year and again on the day of the fatal crash on August 31.
He went on: “There is also an incident in 2010 that ended in a collision.
“I understand he was on licence at the time of this offence and on the face of it he had a serious drug problem.”
Prosecutor Anthony Orchard QC told the court that dashcam police car footage of the crash would be shown as well as CCTV film, although some images were too graphic.
When he first appeared before magistrates in Bromley last September, the court heard Dobby had a “very long previous criminal record” including aggravated vehicle-taking.
In a statement, deputy chief crown prosecutor Malcolm McHaffie said Dobby “drove a stolen car at three times the speed limit down one-way roads and through red lights.
“When he lost control he jumped out of the car and ran away, leaving officers to try and save the victims.”
He added: “Our case was that he wilfully put the lives of others at risk through his actions that day.
“We were not prepared to accept a plea to lesser charges but built a strong case which has left Joshua Dobby no alternative other than to plead guilty to manslaughter.
“We hope that the conviction today provides some small amount of comfort to the family.”
At the time of his death, Sam Brown, of entertainment agency Brown and Mills, described Makayah as an “extremely talented young actor” and a “bright young star”.
He had recently auditioned for a role in a television series and had featured in a number of commercials.
Hairdresser Ms Cooper was hailed by a friend as “one of the kindest, most beautiful, caring people you would ever meet”.
During his last appearance at the Old Bailey, Robin Ghosh, for Dobby, said: “He wishes it to be noted that he fully acknowledges the utterly incomprehensible pain and suffering caused to the families involved.”
The case comes amid discussions about giving judges greater sentencing powers when dealing with the worst death by dangerous driving offenders.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission is currently investigating the circumstances of the crash on August 31 2016.