L-plater thought he ran over a ‘piece of luggage’, not a man

A LEARNER driver who ran over and killed a sleeping man outside a Manunda party thought the victim was a piece of luggage, a court heard.

Julian Glendan Sammut, 21, was driving without a licensed supervisor on December 18, 2018, when he ran over an "object" on Hunt St, Manunda about 4am.

The deceased - Lee James - was asleep or had passed out on the roadside after leaving a party unnoticed.

Sammut would later tell police he saw "something" on the road.

"In this instance it was a person," police prosecutor Senior Constable Stewart Clyde Smith said.

Halfway through the hearing Sammut ran from the courtroom in a nervous panic, forcing an adjournment. The court heard Sammut thought the White Rock man, 20, was a white bag and did not take evasive action until it was too late.

Crime scene along Hunt St, Manunda on December 18, 2018 after a learner driver ran over and killed a sleeping man. PHOTO: PETER MARTINELLI
Crime scene along Hunt St, Manunda on December 18, 2018 after a learner driver ran over and killed a sleeping man. PHOTO: PETER MARTINELLI

Sammut returned to the scene and called triple-0 but fled when the man's family and friends - many of whom were heavily intoxicated - spilled out of a party at a neighbouring residence to find Mr James on the road.

"It was getting hostile," Mark Butler, defending, said.

"He was not trying to flee police."

The tragic case of mistaken identity was also made by the resident of the house, who had organised the party.

She had called police when her house guests had become too rowdy and then went to bed, also convinced that the man lying passed out or sleeping was a bag. She told her child to keep an eye out for the arrival of police.

"(The girl) woke her mother and said there was someone on the road," Mr Butler said. "She looked out and saw what she described as 'luggage; it's just a bag'.''

Her child would witness the awful moment of impact and alert the family.

"The deceased was … wearing a white shirt and black shorts," Mr Butler said.

Sammut pleaded guilty to driving without due care or attention causing death and failing to comply.

"Your plea will give some cold comfort to the family of the poor fellow who was killed in the incident," Magistrate Sandra Turner said.

She fined Sammut $2300, banned him from driving for nine months and did not record a conviction.


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