'Low-life scumbag' jailed for life after killing footballer in van attack

'Low-life scumbag' jailed for life after killing footballer in van attack

The mother of a footballer who was fatally injured when a driver ploughed his van into a group of friends during a night out has branded her son’s killer a “low-life scumbag” as he was jailed for life.

Zac Newman, 27, was found guilty of murdering Sam Wilson, 26, in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, on December 16 last year after driving a van into a crowd of pedestrians, killing one and injuring two others, having drunk alcohol and taken cocaine.

Judge Mr Shaun Smith KC sentenced Newman at Derby Crown Court on Friday to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 24 years for carrying out the fatal act, when he “weaponised” a van in “revenge” for an altercation earlier in the night.

Zac Newman court case
Zac Newman has been sentenced to serve at least 24 years in jail (Derbyshire Constabulary/PA)

In an impact statement read out in court by prosecutor John Lloyd-Jones KC, Mr Wilson’s mother, Loraine Wilson, called her son “gorgeous, funny, witty, and intelligent”.

She said: “Samuel had a bright future ahead of him, it has been ripped away from him by a low-life scumbag. Samuel was bright and intelligent, he held a degree, enjoyed sports, and we watched Samuel play every Sunday since the age of five.

“How can one individual carry such evil. We will never feel safe if he is released”.

Mr Wilson, who played for the amateur football team Curzon AFC based in Derby, will be “missed” by his teammates as “one of life’s good guys” with an “infectious smile”, the club said in statement on Facebook following his death.

Mr Lloyd-Jones said that “at the very least” Newman “intended to cause the victim very serious harm” by driving the three-tonne van into the group in the town’s Market Place.

He said: “This defendant has shown no real regret or remorse for what he did that night. Zac Newman, by driving that night, endangered the lives of not only Sam Wilson but also other innocent people who were standing chatting on a night out.”

Newman of The Crescent, Stapleford, Nottinghamshire, was also found guilty of one count of wounding with intent and one count of attempted wounding with intent after two other men, Sean Cardwell and Daniel Rowley, were injured in the incident.

Mr Cardwell, who survived an injury to his head, read his impact statement to the court, telling of the “guilt” he felt.

He said: “I was the oldest person that night and I should have protected the others but I didn’t and I couldn’t. I will never forget what happened that night. I feel lucky to be alive.

“I thought I was going to die. I’m not afraid of a lot of things but I was afraid of losing my family that night. I’m a strong-minded person but nothing will compare to the fear I felt that night”.

Newman’s defence barrister, Phil Bradley KC, disputed that the defendant felt no remorse for his actions, saying that Newman wanted to send a letter to the family of Mr Wilson.

He said: “From the very start of our engagement he was anxious to tell us how awful he felt about these events and wanted at the very start to provide a letter to the family.

“It is simply wrong to say this man had no remorse”.

The judge addressed Newman, who was sitting in the dock with his arms crossed, and said: “I do not accept that you are remorseful for what you did.

“Not only did you deliberately drive at innocent people, you intended to cause people really serious harm.

“You hoped that the jury would accept your case that what happened was a dreadful accident. You chose to drive onto the market place, that was a deliberate decision by you made in anger.”

Detective Chief Inspector Matt Croome, who led the investigation, said: “The sentencing today marks the end of an incredibly tragic and horrifying case, and our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the family and friends of Sam Wilson.

“Newman’s behaviour had severe and devastating consequences and no sentence can ever truly compensate for the loss experienced by Sam’s loved ones.

“I hope that they will feel some measure of justice and peace as they continue to live with the impact of Newman’s actions.”