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Labour MP Peter Dowd tells of loss of daughter, 31, in hit-and-run as driver is jailed for 12 months

A Labour MP has told of the devastating loss of his daughter in a hit-and-run accident as a driver was jailed for 12 months.

Jennifer Dowd, 31, suffered unsurvivable head injuries after being knocked from her bicycle from behind by Lucy Ashton’s Ford Focus on September 27 last year in Sefton Village, Merseyside.

Ashton, 24, who was rushing to work at the time after arguing with her boyfriend into the early hours, said the sun was in her eyes and she ‘panicked’ after the crash, so left the NHS project manager lying on the road.

Peter Dowd, Labour MP for Bootle, told Liverpool Crown Court of his heartbreak after his daughter was killed just yards from his home.

Jennifer Dowd (pictured), 31, suffered unsurvivable head injuries after being knocked from her bicycle from behind on September 27 last year in Sefton Village, Merseyside

As Ashton appeared in court for sentencing, he said: ‘On the Sunday morning she was knocked down, I could hear emergency services’ sirens and I could hear a helicopter close by, breaking the silence of that quiet morning. 

‘Little did I know they were on their way to help Jennie, who lay dying in the road just 100 yards from where I live.

‘The idea that I was just a minute away from where she had been knocked down, deserted and left alone by the driver, injured and dying has stayed with me ever since.’

Mr Dowd, his voice cracking with emotion, said he tells himself that there was ‘little’ he could have done to help her but remains ‘haunted and burdened’ by doubts, which he said will stay with his until the day he dies.

He told the court of his daughter’s captivating smile and how she always thought of others and even in death, had helped people as an organ donor.

He continued: ‘The room where she was born at Aintree Hospital and the room in which she died on the same hospital site was just 300 yards away. 

Lucy Ashton (pictured), who knocked Ms Dowd down in her Ford Focus, said the sun was in her eyes and she ‘panicked’ after the crash, so left the NHS project manager lying on the road

‘But that short journey belied the real limitless journey between her birth and death. 

‘A life packed out with giving which had such a positive effect on so many other people’s lives.’

Ms Dowd’s partner Samantha Brighton, who she married eighteen months before the crash, told the court how they met in South Africa in 2015, fell in love and moved to Liverpool exactly four years before the accident.

Just two days before the crash, they had picked their sperm donor and booked their first round of IVF treatment in the hopes of start a family. 

Ms Dowd died in Aintree Hospital without ever re-gaining consciousness following the hit-and-run tragedy, the court heard.

Ashton, a care worker, admitted causing death by driving carelessly and failing to stop after an accident.

The court heard that the victim, who had just been promoted to a role helping transform the NHS, was found lying unconscious on the country road by two local women driving towards the village shortly after the 8.30am collision.

Jailing Ashton for 12 months, Judge David Aubrey, QC, said: ‘Two families suffered, two families continue to suffer and their lives, in different perspectives, will never be the same again.’

He said that Ms Dowd ‘was truly loved and respected by all of those who knew her’, had a ‘bright career ahead of her’ and was a ‘shining beacon standing for equality, diversity and fairness’. 

Judge Aubrey told Ashton, from Sefton Village: ‘The life they had planned came to an end when you caused her death by driving your car carelessly.

‘It was a bright clear dry sunny Sunday morning. She was wearing bright clothing. She had simply gone out for a bike ride. She never returned. 

‘It was an open country road and in my judgement at the scene of the accident there was nothing to impede your vision and you simply failed to see her and drove into the rear of her cycle.

‘No one witnessed the accident but two local resident in a car saw her lying on the road in a critical condition. They stopped to care for her before the emergency services arrived. You did not.’  

Robert Dudley, prosecuting, said that after the accident, Ashton left the scene and drove to nearby Maghull where she rang her boss before driving back to the scene. 

But she did not wait and went back to Maghull where she rang a work colleague, saying she had ‘hit something’, before arriving at her colleague’s home in Bootle ‘panicked’. 

Ashton said she had been in a collision but the sun had been in her eyes and she thought she had hit a person.

The police were called and when officers arrived she told them: ‘I’m so sorry, I panicked.’ 

When interviewed she said she heard a bang but kept on driving and looked in her mirror and saw a bicycle and cyclist but ‘panicked’. She claimed it had been quite dark at the time. 

Peter Dowd (pictured), Labour MP for Bootle, told Liverpool Crown Court of his heartbreak after his daughter was killed just yards from his home

Ashton admitted she had not slept well but failed to say she had been rowing with her boyfriend on the phone and was out driving in her car and swapping texts with him before finally returning home at 2.32am. She got up six hours later, late for work.

Mr Dudley said that the victim had suffered multiple injuries including severe brain injuries caused when her head was struck by the car.

Judge Aubrey told Ashton: ‘You are described as being a diligent, caring hard worker caring for vulnerable people and this court has received moving references on your behalf speaking of your remorse.’ 

He said that it was not a case of momentary inattention, claiming that she was not ‘keeping a proper lookout. 

He said that Ms Dowd must have been very visible wherever the sun was, saying it was Ashton’s responsibility to drive slower and stop.

The judge said: ‘The inescapable conclusion is if you had been paying even moderate attention you would have seen her.’ 

Her barrister Alex Di Francesco told the court that Ashton, who is of positive good character, was full of remorse. He said she had not been driving at excessive speed and she was not in a rush for the shift which she had volunteered to do.

He said the driver who found the victim had to lower her sun visor, but the judge said this was all the more reason for Ashton to have been driving slower. 

He said that she now suffers nightmares and finds it very hard to cope with what has happened.

Ashton has been jailed for 12 months and was banned for driving for 18 months.

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