A schoolgirl who lost part of her leg in a hit-and-run crash sat in court yesterday to watch the man who killed one of her family and left her severely disabled brought to justice.
Alan Steel, 26 - who had 17 previous convictions for driving offences - was high on heroin when his Cherokee Jeep mounted the pavement and ploughed into 10-year-old Danica Green.
Danica's relative Paula Stead, 32, was killed in the accident and Mrs Stead's daughter Bridie, 11, injured.
Yesterday, Danica, who had her right leg amputated below the knee following the crash, screamed "I hate you" at Steel after he was jailed indefinitely at Newcastle Crown Court.
She arrived at the public gallery in a wheelchair to sit alongside her devastated family who say their lives have been "torn apart".
Judge David Hodson described Steel - who had bought the car just hours earlier - as a "thoroughly amoral individual".
Mrs Stead, Danica's mother's cousin, a school dinner lady, who
had recently married her landscape gardener husband John, was walking home along St Luke's Road, Sunderland, with Bridie and Danica, on September 21, when they were struck by the Jeep.
She was carried along on the bonnet of the 4x4 before being thrown off after desperately trying to shield the two children.
The court heard how Mrs Stead, of Forest Road, Sunderland, who had been returning from her second job cleaning at a dental surgery, suffered a "huge catalogue of injuries" including a fractured skull, open head wound, 18 fractured ribs, ruptured liver and ruptured spleen.
Bridie, a pupil at Pennywell Comprehensive, Sunderland, suffered a shattered elbow and four broken bones in her foot after being hit with such force she was thrown into a nearby garden, while Danica's legs were run over by the 4x4.
Danica, a Highfield Primary School pupil, had to have her right leg amputated below the knee in October after developing gangrene and is still undergoing treatment before she can be fitted with a prosthetic limb.
Bridie, who needed surgery to fit screws and wires into her elbow, is receiving psychological counselling following the collision.
Ewan Duff, prosecuting, said their lives had been utterly devastated by loss and injury and revealed Mrs Stead's husband John was being treated for depression.
Mr Duff said: "Danica's treatment is ongoing. She hasn't yet had an artificial limb fitted to her right leg and the prognosis for her left foot is not clear. At best she will have ongoing pain and the future sadly holds further operations. Their lives have been torn apart."
Mr Duff said Steel, who bought the Jeep earlier in the day for £700, had been driving "like a maniac" before the crash, and had fled the scene after hitting Danica, Bridie and Mrs Stead. The court heard he went to a friend's house, shaved his head to disguise his appearance, and had also visited an ex-girlfriend before he was arrested by police the following day.
Steel, of St Luke's Road, Sunderland, initially claimed he was innocent, but eventually pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving, driving while disqualified, driving without insurance and failing to stop after an accident.
He had four previous convictions for dangerous driving and 13 for driving while disqualified dating back 10 years, with his last jail sentence being 12 months imposed in January 2005.
Patrick Cosgrove QC, defending, said Steel felt "genuine remorse" for the crash.
But Judge Hodson, sentencing, said: "You are a thoroughly amoral individual with no regard for others. You are a complete menace to the community.
"You should never have been behind the wheel of any vehicle."
He added: "No sentence of any court can ever satisfy those family members that have been left behind."
It will be five years before Steel is eligible for parole, minus the 106 days he has already served in custody, and he was also disqualified from driving for 12 years.
Killer had bought Jeep hours earlier
Banned driver Alan Steel bought the powerful 4x4 which killed Paula Stead and seriously injured two young girls just four hours before the accident, Newcastle Crown Court was told yesterday.
Ewan Duff, prosecuting, told the court the 26-year-old bought the Cherokee Jeep for £700 from Easytest Auto on Philadelphia Lane, Sunderland, at 3.20pm, and immediately began to drive recklessly.
Steel visited friends and stopped to take heroin and methadone before picking up his cousin and driving to his house on St Luke's Road where he injected more of the Class A drug.
His cousin later left the vehicle before Steel sped off and witnesses later saw him "driving like a maniac".
Steel was in a crash at about 6.40pm on Barnard Street when he hit a Nissan Micra going in the opposite direction, and several parked cars.
A police car spotted him swerving to avoid speed bumps near Hylton Road, but lost sight of him.
At one point he drove over the humps at such speed, all four wheels left the ground.
Mr Duff said: "He was seen on a number of occasions driving in an extremely reckless fashion and witnesses described his driving as being that of a maniac."
When Steel arrived at St Luke's Road just after 7pm he was travelling so fast he was unable to stop at a double roundabout and mounted the pavement, hitting and killing Mrs Stead and seriously injuring the two children she was with.
Hours later a second crash involving a car being followed by police took place just yards from where Paula Stead was killed to conclude a tragic night on Sunderland's roads.
Police applaud judge on sentencing
Detectives last night applauded the judge after Alan Steel was jailed indefinitely.
Officers were seen comforting the devastated family of Paula Stead, 32, who was killed in the crash and of Mrs Stead's daughter Bridie, 11, and relative Danica Green, who were both seriously injured.
But Det Insp Arthur Cowell said no sentence would take away the grief of their distraught relatives who were initially angry when they heard Steel could be considered for parole in five years.
He said: "Because of the legislation it was difficult for the family to understand the sentence.
"Nothing will ever be sufficient in their eyes for the loss and trauma they have suffered. However, I applaud the decision of the judge who quite rightly addressed the issue of dangerousness and feel the sentence reflects the gravity of the offence."
Det Insp Cowell added: "Steel has shown himself to be to a callous and uncaring individual who has no thought for anyone other than himself.
"He abandoned three people who were in obvious need of serious and urgent medical attention.
"Throughout his interviews with the police he never showed remorse and never enquired about the welfare of the children or the family to whom he has caused so much suffering, pain and loss."