Sussex man jailed for causing cyclist’s death and blinding friend during assault

A Sussex man has been jailed for causing the death of a cyclist and for assaulting his friend, leaving him blind in one eye.

Mathew Gardiner. Picture: Sussex Police
Mathew Gardiner. Picture: Sussex Police

Mathew George Gardiner, 35, a construction worker, of Preston Road, Bexhill, was sentenced at Lewes Crown Court on Friday (August 28).

He previously pleaded guilty to causing the death of Antoney Colley, a 53-year-old security officer from Bexhill, in a road traffic collision on Sunday, May 26, 2019.

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The court heard Gardiner was more than seven times over the drug-drive limit, as well as being twice the drink-drive limit, at the time of the collision.

Antoney Colley

While out on bail for those offences, Gardiner assaulted his friend in Hastings town centre on Friday, January 24, leaving his victim blind in one eye and with other serious facial injuries.

Gardiner pleaded guilty to a charge of grievous bodily harm with intent and was also sentenced for that offence on Friday.

Gardiner was jailed for three years for the assault. He was also jailed for seven years and six months, which will run consecutively, for causing the death of Mr Colley.

Due to the seriousness of the offences, Judge Christine Laing QC also imposed an extended sentence of three years, meaning he has been jailed for a total of 13 years and six months.

Gardiner has been disqualified from driving for a total of 12 years and six months and must pass another test before his licence is returned to him.

Mr Colley's death

The court heard, on May 25, 2019, Gardiner had been drinking heavily with friends. At about 6am the following morning he was driving along Combe Valley Way at ‘excessive speeds’, estimated to be close to 100mph.

Eyewitnesses reported seeing him overtaking at least two cars before colliding with Mr Colley, who had been wearing a high-visibility jacket and trousers and a helmet.

One witness said he saw a ‘cloud of dust’ as the collision happened. Mr Colley was found in the road but, despite the efforts of paramedics, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Speaking to police shortly after the incident, Gardiner said he had drank between 15 and 20 pints of beer the day before, as well as whiskey and had also taken cocaine at 11pm the previous night, the court was told. Police said he had been awake for 24 hours without sleep.

He was quoted telling police: “I’ve killed a man.” He also told police he was driving at speeds of ‘about a ton’, meaning 100mph, the court heard.

Blood results showed Gardiner was seven times the legal drug-drive limit, as well as being twice the legal drink-drive limit, the court heard.

He was arrested and subsequently charged with causing death by dangerous driving; causing death while driving without due care and attention and at the time, was unfit to drive through drugs; and causing death while driving without due care and attention and at the time, was under the influence of alcohol.

Gardiner originally pleaded not guilty to the offences but later changed his plea to guilty on all the charges.

The assault

While out on bail for these offences, Gardiner, along with two other friends went drinking at the General Havelock pub, in Hastings town centre, on January 24, 2020.

One of his friends was escorted out of the pub because he was too drunk, the court heard.

While stood next to railings outside Andrews estate agents on the corner of Havelock Road and Robertson Street, Gardiner was spotted on CCTV punching his friend repeatedly to the face, before his friend falls to the floor.

Two security guards come over to assist, before Gardiner retrieves his bag from underneath his friend and walks away.

The court heard his friend had no recollection of the incident, but was taken to hospital, where he required surgery. He was left blind in his right eye and can no longer see things close up with his left eye. He also suffered a cut to his head, the court was told.

Previous convictions

The court also heard Gardiner, who had served in the Royal Marines from the age of 15 to 21, had been convicted for a string of offences, including one incident, in 2005, which left his brother with serious injuries after he stabbed him multiple times following an argument at a bar. He was sentenced to five years in a young offenders institute following that incident.

In 2013, the court heard, Gardiner was the victim of an assault which caused a brain injury.

'I never learn'

Sentencing Gardiner, Judge Laing QC said: “I accept you are genuinely remorseful for Mr Colley’s death, but I have no doubt you have been remorseful each time you committed a crime.

“You have told yourself on the other occasions you will not drink or take drugs again, but it has not stopped you from doing just that.

“You struck Mr Colley while you were travelling at grossly excessive speed for that road. The damage caused to him was totally dreadful. His death would have been almost immediate.

“Then on January 24 you went for drinks with your friend before, for inexcusable reasons, you launched an unprovoked attack. It was shocking – quite frankly sickening. Then you pulled your bag out from under him and walked off.

“Whilst on bail for causing the death of Mr Colley, you caused serious injuries again. After Mr Colley’s death, you told police: ‘I never learn’. That is something you have proved yet again.”

'Flagrant violation for the law'

Acting Inspector Dan Pitcher, of the Sussex Roads Policing Unit, said: “This man has destroyed the lives of two people through his flagrant violation for the law and the safety of the general public.

“By driving under the influence of drink and drugs, and at a speed well in excess of the legal limit, he clearly posed a significant risk to himself and all other road users on the day he tragically killed Antoney Colley.

“In a separate incident, he left another man with life-changing injuries.

“While nothing can change past events, we hope his sentence brings some closure to the family and friends of Antoney Colley, and to the victim of the assault.

“We also hope it serves as a stark warning to others about the seriousness of driving not in accordance with the law.

“Speeding and drink or drug-driving, along with mobile phone use, not wearing a seatbelt and careless driving, are the five most common causes of serious injury and fatal collisions in Sussex. Educate yourself before it’s too late. Don’t let your next journey be your last.”