The heartbroken mother of three-year-old Leo Durrington, who was left fighting for his life after an horrific hit-and-run, said she cannot forget the image of her son being hit.
Little Leo was walking along Wigan Road in Leigh on the morning of October 30, with his mother, when the speeding white Ford Transit ploughed into him, hurling him like a ragdoll into the car park of the Tamar pub.
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It was being driven by a 16-year-old Abram boy, with a 15-year-old in the passenger seat. Neither boy can be named for legal reasons.
They failed to stop, fleeing the scene of the horrific crime while police officers stopped to aid Leo, whose heart stopped multiple times while 999 crews treated him in the car park.
Leo, who turned four just days after the collision, remains in hospital, with his parents sleeping by his bedside every night. His condition has “improved considerably”, but he still has some difficulty speaking and walking.
Leo’s mother wept as the older teenager was given a 12-month detention order at Wigan Youth Court.
“I’m completely heartbroken by it all. I can’t forget the image of my little boy lying on that hospital bed,” she said in a victim impact statement, which was read to the court by prosecutor Beth Pilling.
She added: “The awful image of the van coming towards us, seeing our baby hit by the van and seeing his body hit the floor. I really thought my boy had gone. As a parent, how do you deal with seeing that?”
Still heartbroken, she had to leave the courtroom before distressing CCTV footage of the incident was shown; unable to relive the horrific moment more than five weeks on.
The defendant’s grandmother, who accompanied him to court, gasped and put her head down as the footage was shown of the crash.
It was a crime that immediately caught the attention of the public, and just hours after it occurred, an urgent appeal for information was issued by Greater Manchester Police.
Sgt Lee Westhead had called upon the suspects to do the right thing and turn themselves in.
That very same night, a 15-year-old boy handed himself in at a police station and admitted to being carried in the stolen vehicle.
And hours later, the 16-year-old was tracked down and arrested at his home in Abram. They were both in Wigan Youth Court just 48 hours after leaving little Leo for dead.
And the rapid time in which they were brought to justice was thanks to the public, Sgt Westhead said.
“There was a really good response from the public.
“We did a very early press appeal, and the response was fantastic. It allowed us to quickly identify the suspects.
“What that shows is that communities won’t stand by and allow people to get away with this. They won’t hesitate in coming forward.”
He also said the driver was now “in jail where he belongs.”
He went on: “Justice has been served quite quickly in this case.
“There were only 33 hours between them being remanded to being charged.
“Within that period, we were able to put together the evidence. It was very quick, and hopefully brought some closure.”
Sgt Westhead described the incident as an “horrendous piece of driving by a clearly dangerous driver,” adding that he was “very grateful” that Leo survived. Leo’s family were also briefed about what sentences both boys could expect to receive, and were in the courtroom to see a judge punish the pair.
“They were able to hear all the evidence against the defendants,” Sgt Westhead said.
“They were able to see justice being served. They are pleased he is in jail where he belongs.”