Sophie Shaw, 21, Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire talks about the horrific moment she was hit by a drink driver...
Not every sorry deserves an, ‘It’s OK’.
Aaron Swift’s didn’t.
‘Can you believe he’s actually apologised on Facebook?’ I said to my mum Joanne, 47.
He’d found my profile. Then sent me a message with the phoniest-sounding ‘sorry’ ever.
Hi it’s Aron swift, the message read. I am really sorry for what I have done I never ment for it to happen it was a stupid mistake which I will regret for the rest of my life hope you are ok I wish you the best [sic].
The thing is, I wasn’t OK. And he knew it.
Because in July last year, he’d run me over, then driven off.
I’d been on a rare night out with my mate Molly, 22.
Rare because I’d been diagnosed with leukaemia aged 12, and growing up I’d missed loads of nights out.
My treatment lasted two years. Chemotherapy made me sick and I lost my hair.
But I wouldn’t change any of it. Because in a way, leukaemia made me who I am.
When I was 13, the doctor told me the cancer was gone – the treatment had worked.
But I wouldn’t be in remission for another five years. Would be in and out of hospital for check-ups.
There wasn’t time to be a normal teen.
Now, though, I was 20. And I had the all-clear. Time to get on with life.
That night, we ended up in a club. I’d stopped drinking, and was just dancing.
I left at 4.30am, but my mates were still going strong!
As I crossed the road to the taxi stand, suddenly I heard the roar of an engine.
Turning to look, I saw the flash of a car heading straight at me…
Doctors suspect I hit my head going over the car bonnet.
I’d had my memory of the incident literally knocked out of me.
I do remember being at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, though.
Mum and my dad Gary, 48, were at my bedside. And the police.
‘You were the victim of a hit and run,’ an officer told me.
The car had rounded the corner outside the club just as I’d been crossing the road…I hadn’t stood a chance.
Someone had witnessed the whole thing and called 999.
I was lucky to be alive.
Officers had run the car’s registration through their system, but hadn’t found anything.
Which meant that the vehicle wasn’t insured.
‘We want your permission to release CCTV footage of the incident…see if anyone has any information.’
‘Release it,’ I said.
I wanted the driver caught. If nothing else, to prevent them hurting anyone else.
I’d damaged the ligaments in my right leg, suffered bruising to my face and neck.
My front top two teeth had snapped diagonally.
‘They look like Dracula fangs,’ I cried.
And another tooth on the top row had shattered completely.
But, after a couple of hours, I discharged myself.
All the time I’d spent in hospitals having chemo had left me hating them.
I used a wheelchair to get around while my body healed.
Days on, the Halifax Courier ran the police appeal for information. They included my name and photo.
I hoped, prayed, crossed my fingers it’d turn up something.
Meanwhile, I started getting my teeth sorted. The chemo left me with weak gums, which made work complicated.
So far, I’ve had 10 procedures, had caps, veneers, the lot.
Nothing’s stayed put. My gums just aren’t strong enough.
We’re looking at having implants. But I could be left with fangs for good.
Slowly, the torn ligament in my leg healed.
Then, a few days after the collision…that message arrived on my Facebook page.
‘He must have seen my name in the papers,’ I said.
Straightaway, I phoned the police.
‘We’re already onto him,’ the officer said.
Apparently, a tip-off had recently come through.
Swift had been arrested, charged with dangerous driving and released on bail.
He admitted he’d been drunk behind the wheel. And stoned.
Swift also admitted dangerous driving, driving without insurance, driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence, failing to stop after an accident and failing to report an accident.
I wrote a victim-impact statement to read out at his sentence hearing.
Except, in December, Aaron Swift, 29, didn’t show up at court.
A warrant was put out for his arrest.
‘Coward!’ I cried, frustrated.
A month later, he was arrested and taken straight to Bradford Crown Court for sentencing, so there wasn’t time to let me know.
I didn’t get to face him in court, or tell him what he’d done to me.
‘He got 54 weeks in prison,’ a police officer told me later. ‘He’s been banned from driving for 79 weeks and has to take an extended driving test.’
He’ll probably be out in six months. And that makes me angry.
Turns out this isn’t the first time he’s been before a judge.
He was given a suspended sentence back in 2007 for dangerous driving.
Aaron Swift, I didn’t reply to your Facebook message. But if you’re reading this, good.
Do your time. And move on with your life, just like I have.
But saying sorry on Facebook isn’t enough. Show you’re really sorry by changing your behaviour.
If you don’t, next time you might kill someone. And that someone might very well be you.