A MAN who admitted causing the death of a "devoted and doting" father-of-three in a wrong-way crash on an M4 slip road has been jailed for seven years.

Thomas Hughes, 24, of St Dials Court, Cwmbran, had pleaded guilty to causing the death by dangerous driving of Kirk Butcher, from Ebbw Vale.

He also admitted failing to stop following the head-on collision with Mr Butcher's car near Junction 25A of the M4 in Newport at around 3.30am on Sunday, April 5.

The hearing at Cardiff Crown Court this afternoon was told Mr Butcher, a builder by trade, was killed instantly in the crash, caused by what Judge Richard Twomlow called an "unbelievably dangerous piece of driving" by Hughes.


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In "flagrant disregard for the road layout", Hughes drove his van the wrong way down the slip road at between 64 and 75 miles per hour, James Wilson, prosecuting, said.

Mr Wilson described the "catastrophic" collision which followed, between Hughes' partially-laden Mercedes van, weighing 2,830 kilograms, and Mr Butcher's 950-kilogram Nissan Micra.

There were clear signs marking the road layout, warning drivers that a left turn was "inadmissible", but Hughes had "turned sharply left... in contravention to the road layout", Mr Wilson said.

The court heard how Hughes then fled the crash scene, travelling on foot through "forests and gardens" to reach his brother's house where, crying, he kept repeating: "Don't let the police in".

Former Domino's Pizza delivery driver Hughes was arrested later that morning and taken to hospital for his bruises to be treated. Witnesses heard Hughes say he had intended to take his own life. Hughes claimed he had planned to drive into a tree or lamppost, the court heard.

"You entered the motorway in the wrong direction – clearly [from your comments] this was not a mistake," the judge told Hughes, adding: "You gave Mr Butcher no chance to avoid you."

The court heard a victim impact statement from Mr Butcher's wife and childhood sweetheart, Janet.

"He was not only my husband – he was my best friend," she said. "We were soulmates and I dreamed of growing old with him."

Mrs Butcher said "family meant everything" to her late husband, who had taught his three daughters to swim and enjoyed riding bikes together with them. The family had been planning a trip to Disneyland in Florida for 2021, she added.

Cruelly, the coronavirus pandemic had worsened the family's suffering, with Mrs Butcher and her daughters unable to grieve with friends or relatives.

Jailing Hughes for seven years, Judge Twomlow said: "No sentence I can pass... can possibly alleviate the grief of Mr Butcher's family."

Hughes was also banned from driving for eight and a half years.

Following the hearing, Gwent Police officer Darren O'Sullivan, who led the case, said: “This was a senseless and selfish act by the defendant, which took the life of an innocent man. Three young children have lost a father, Janet has lost her husband, and not forgetting the loss suffered by his brother Lindsay, and his extended family and friends.

“Kirk was a key worker, returning home to his family at the end of a 12- hour shift, when Thomas Hughes, driving the wrong way on the motorway, collided with his vehicle.

“This tragedy was completely avoidable and Hughes will have to live with the consequences of his actions for the rest of his life, although that will provide little comfort to the Butcher family.

“Too many people die on our roads every year in senseless and often avoidable circumstances. I can only hope that the sentence passed today, will act as a deterrent to anyone intent on driving in such a dangerous and reckless manner.

“On behalf of myself, the team investigating this case and Gwent Police, I would like to express my heartfelt condolences to Janet and her family.

“I would also like to thank all those who provided information to assist in the investigation, leading to the arrest and subsequent conviction of Thomas Hughes.”