A CALLOUS thief who mowed down a delivery driver with his own lorry during a botched hijack has been jailed.

David Fletcher has been left in a wheelchair with life changing injuries after he was targeted by Leonard Willsher, 41, on July 9 last year.

Willsher, of The Fremnells, Basildon, was caged for three years and eight months when he appeared at Basildon Crown Court on Tuesday.

Martyn Levett, prosecuting, told Basildon Crown Court Mr Fletcher, who owns a small delivery company, was dropping off goods at a house in Wood Avenue, Purfleet, at about 12.25pm.

He was at his customer’s front door when Willsher and an accomplice, who has never been caught, jumped in to the cab of his seven and a half tonne Mercedes lorry and started driving away.

Mr Fletcher ran after them and managed to jump on to the foot plate next to the driver’s window.

But Willsher opened the window and shoved Mr Fletcher into the road before running over his legs and torso.

The pair then lept from the van, wiped their finger prints from the door and made off - leaving Mr Fletcher critically injured.

The court heard Mr Fletcher was airlifted to the Royal London Hospital. He had a fractured spine, broken shoulder, fractured leg and compressed pelvis.

Mr Fletcher spent two weeks in an induced coma, and two months in hospital undergoing treatment and rehabilitation.

Despite Willsher’s efforts to wipe away his finger prints at the scene detectives discovered a scrap of DNA evidence on the driver’s door which they later ran through the police national computer.

Willsher was arrested but still refuses to give up the name of his accomplice to police.

At an earlier hearing Willsher admitted aggrevating vehicle taking, causing serious injury by dangerous driving, causing grievous bodily harm without intent and driving while disqualified.

Lefi Tsiattalou, mitigating, said the incident was opportunistic and her client had not set out to harm Mr Fletcher.

She said he thought about the injuries he had caused every day.

Sentencing him to three years and eight months in custody, Judge Owen Davies QC, said: “You have caused great harm to Mr Fletcher through this incident of extra ordinary irresponsibility, carelessness and callousness.

Thurrock Gazette: David Fletcher

David Fletcher

“You left a man seriously injured having driven over him in a seven and half tonne lorry.

“You did not lift a finger to help him. You displayed heartless irresponsibility to what you had just done.”


A JUDGE has praised the support a man’s family offered him as he recovered from a botched hi-jack.

Basildon Crown Court heard yesterday that David Fletcher was still recovering from a stroke when he was mowed down by Leonard Willsher in his own van.

Mr Fletcher needs a wheelchair and struggles to wash and dress himself after the incident on July 9 last year.

He spent two months in hospital following the incident and his home had to be specially adapted before he was able to leave hospital.

Judge Owen Davies QC, said: “One’s heart goes out to Mr Fletcher and his family.

“If it was not for his sense of humour and the support of his wife Gillian then he may never have recovered as much as he has.

“It is difficult to imagine the hardship inflicted on him and his family.

“This is all because of the irresponsibility of Leonard Willsher’s actions on that day.”