Grantham
February 26, 2021 3.27 pm

Driver jailed for running down police officer, leaving her with brain injuries

Doctors said she was lucky to survive

A driver caused devastating injuries to a Lincolnshire Police officer when she went to help him after he was found slumped over his steering wheel in a supermarket car park.

Daniel Noddings, 37, started his engine and reversed into DC Sara Willcock with his open door striking her before heading out of a parking bay at high speed.

The slightly-built officer was thrown to the ground suffering brain injuries so serious that doctors later told her she was lucky to survive.

Noddings initially attracted attention when staff at the Sainsbury’s store in Grantham checked his Nissan Juke vehicle in the car park and found him slumped over the steering wheel.

Samuel Lowne, prosecuting, told Lincoln Crown Court that supermarket staff checked the car as they were concerned for Noddings’ welfare.

Minutes later they were joined by DC Willcock who was visiting the store to collect CCTV evidence for an unconnected investigation.

Mr Lowne said: “As the staff were trying to rouse the defendant, DC Willcock approached them. She asked if she could help.

“As she went over to the Nissan the defendant had come round. He appeared dazed and not with it. He attempted to start the engine.

“DC Willcock identified herself as a police officer and showed him her warrant card. She attempted to get the keys to prevent him from driving.

“He reversed at speed with the open door hitting DC Willcock. With the door still open the Nissan Juke was driven out of the car park at speed.”

The officer, who had served in the police force for 20 years, was knocked to the ground suffering serious injuries including a fractured skull, bleeding to her brain and severe bruising to her brain.

She was detained in hospital for five days before returning home, but was then bed-bound for a further five weeks.

Months after the incident she has not been able to return to work and told the court how her injuries have devastated the lives of herself, her husband and her young son.

DC Willcock said: “I have been a police officer for 20 years and have never experienced such a serious assault against me. I cannot believe the level of violence used against me for really no reason at all.

“I went over to him and the ladies from the supermarket to check they were all ok. I’m five feet two, of slight build, I was in plain clothes, softly spoken. I’m not threatening at all.

“The hospital told me that I was lucky it wasn’t a fatal injury. I thought I was going to die. It’s not over exaggerating to say he could have killed me.”

The officer said she has permanently lost her senses of taste and smell and still has serious health difficulties which restrict what she can do, including nausea and issues with her short-term memory and balance.

“This was and is my dream job. If I cannot work as a police officer I don’t know what I can do. His actions on that day have turned my life upside down.”

Noddings, having driven away from the scene, was involved in further dangerous driving before he was stopped and arrested in Princess Drive, Grantham.

Cannabis was found in his vehicle and a toxicology test showed he was over the limit for cocaine.

Following his arrest he told police he drove off in a panic because he was frightened as he thought the officer was trying to steal his car.

The court was told that Noddings had 44 previous convictions for a total of 69 offences.

Noddings, 37, of no fixed address, admitted a charge of causing serious injury to DC Willcock by dangerous driving as a result of the incident at 9.30am on the morning of October 7, 2020. He also admitted further charges of dangerous driving and possession of cannabis.

He was jailed for 40 months and given a four year driving ban to start on his release from custody.

Recorder Simon King, passing sentence, told him: “What you did on that day has caused devastation to DC Willcock.

“You displayed a callous stupidity and disregard for the safety of anyone around you.

“The officer didn’t pose any threat to you. The account you gave that you were frightened is frankly ludicrous.

“She has been unable to return to her job with the police force and doesn’t know if she will ever return.”

Michael Cranmer-Brown, in mitigation, said that at the time Noddings was homeless and living in his car.

He told the court: “It all happened very quickly. He didn’t anticipate DC Willcock was going to open the door as he was reversing. He plainly should have stopped when she told him to.

“He hadn’t appreciated she was a police officer.”

Noddings himself told the court: “I never intended to hurt anybody. It’s a tragic thing that happened. I sincerely apologise for what happened.”

After the case, Chief Supt Jon McAdam of Lincolnshire Police said: “This was a serious assault on one of our officers who was attending to try and help Noddings to see if he was safe and well, given concerns had been raised about him.

“As an officer doing her job to keep people safe, she has sustained a life-changing injury with significant impact on her and her young family.

“Sara is on a long and challenging road to recovery. This is not ‘part of the job’ and not what officers sign up for. This is a sad and stark reminder of the dangers officers and staff face on a daily basis.

“The fact colleagues were able to respond to the incident in such a positive manner is a testament to their professionalism, meaning Noddings has been able to be brought to justice at this time.

“I would like to sincerely thank all those who sent well wishes for Sara and those who continue to support Sara at this difficult time.”

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