Hit and run driver killed himself after death of Cradley Heath pensioner

8:00am Thursday 1st May 2014

A HIT and run driver, who left a Cradley Heath great granddad for dead, later killed himself, an inquest was told.

Bernard Betts had been walking his dog, faithful companion Jack, in Haden Hill Park when he was struck by Citroen car as he crossed Barrs Road, just yards from his home.

The otherwise fit and healthy 85-year-old died 18 days later after contracting pneumonia in Russells Hall Hospital where he was being treated for his injuries.

The retired brick layer was hit by the car at about 7pm on January 16 last year and his dog, Jack, was found whimpering later the same evening outside the home he had shared with his wife Lilian, aged 84, for 30 years.

An inquest at Dudley yesterday (Wednesday) was told how father-of-one and step dad to two children Stephen Johnson repeatedly denied to police knocking down Mr Betts.

But his former business colleague Philip Davy, aged 48, of Elmtree Way, Old Hill, told coroner Robin Balmain how he informed police Mr Johnson was responsible.

“He was a bully and a nasty person and he was my mate,” said Mr Davy, who had run block paving company Paved to Perfection with him and another friend for 12 years.

The two men had been at Mr Davy’s brother’s home in Barns Road, Stourbridge and Mr Johnson, who had been drinking throughout the afternoon, insisted on driving to fetch a curry.

When he returned the curry was down his front and he claimed his car had been hit by another vehicle.

But forensic tests on the vehicle linked him to the incident and the crown prosecution service planned to bring charges against Mr Johnson.

After the inquest Mr Davy said 37-year-old Mr Johnson was found dead in bed by his mother at their Wordsley home after taking an overdose.

“He never admitted what he had done, but said he was not going to go to jail,” added Mr Davy, whose decision to inform on him was praised by Mr Betts son Leslie Betts.

He said: “What he did was marvellous – we cannot thank him enough.

Mr Betts, aged 65, a retired college lecturer, added: “Two families have been devastated.”

Mr Balmain described the hit and run as “disgraceful” and concluded that Mr Betts died from a chest infection which resulted from injuries sustained in the collision.

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