Driver who went on the run to Tenerife after ploughing car into pub crowd is jailed for seven years
A driver who became one of Britain’s most wanted went on the run after ploughing his car into a crowd outside a pub has been jailed for seven years.
Bradley Knapp, 27, sparked an international manhunt after hitting two men in his car near The Clipper pub in Dartford, Kent, in October 2019.
He fled within hours of being identified as a suspect by Kent Police but was tracked down almost a year later to Tenerife, where he had worked, formed a stable relationship and fathered a child.
He was arrested on a European warrant and eventually extradited back to the UK in October last year.
Knapp admitted wounding with intent and perverting the course of justice but was cleared of attempted murder during his trial at Maidstone Crown Court in June.
The jury, which deliberated for almost eight hours, was not told that he had gone on the run or about his subsequent extradition.
Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Justice Cavanagh said that Knapp had been ‘reckless in the extreme’ and he posed a danger to the public.
He was handed an extended sentence, totalling seven years of imprisonment with an extra two years added to any time spent on licence.
Bradley Knapp (pictured above), 27, sparked an international manhunt after hitting two men in his car near The Clipper pub in Dartford, Kent, in October 2019
The prosecution had alleged that Knapp, who only held a provisional driving licence and was on police bail for an unrelated dangerous driving matter, used the Ford Fiesta while in a ‘murderous state of mind’, driving indiscriminately and intending to kill multiple pedestrians.
A few minutes earlier he had been ejected from the pub for fighting with another man, Sean O’Flaherty, who was standing at the back of the crowd outside
The court heard Knapp manoeuvred the car through bollards with the passenger door open, before accelerating onto a pedestrianised area in the High Street and steering sharply towards the group.
Although the majority of people were able to jump out of the way, two were hit.
The impact dramatically flipped one man, Callum Walpole, almost vertically into the air to the height of two vehicles and over a parked car.
He later told police that when he landed on the ground and opened his eyes he was ‘shocked he wasn’t dead’.
A second man, Gary Sayer, was knocked to the ground when his legs were clipped by the front of the Fiesta.
‘People tried to get out of the way of the car. I had nowhere to go,’ he told police, adding he feared he would be run over for a second time.
The incident occurred just after 11.30pm on October 11, 2019, and was captured on council-owned CCTV cameras.
Having hit the two men, Knapp crashed into a parked Mercedes and then fled the scene on foot. He was later identified by those at the scene and fingerprints found on carrier bags in the Fiesta.
Mr Walpole suffered serious injuries, including fractures to his shoulder and wrist, a cracked nose, two black eyes, chipped front tooth and bruising to his shin and ankle.
Knapp fled within hours of being identified as a suspect by Kent Police but was tracked down almost a year later to Tenerife. He was arrested (above) on a European warrant and eventually extradited back to the UK in October last year
Mr Sayer sustained injuries to his hands, hip, ankle, foot and calf.
Both men gave statements to police but neither gave evidence at trial. Mr O’Flaherty, who was not hit by the car, declined to assist the police investigation.
Prosecutor Simon Taylor QC told the court that Knapp’s driving was ‘aggressive, deliberate and murderous’ and he was plainly using the car as ‘a deadly weapon’.
However Knapp, who had had no more than five driving lessons and suffers from ADHD, was cleared of attempted murder after he told the court that although he deliberately drove into the crowd at 15 to 20mph, he did not want to kill anyone.
He fled the country under a false name and by ferry from the Port of Dover on October 16, less than nine hours after Kent Police had named him as wanted in connection with the incident.
Describing Knapp as ‘impulsive, aggressive, prone to losing control and lashing out with great violence’, Mr Justice Cavanagh told him: ‘The jury found you did not intend to kill anyone but it is clear beyond doubt, and you accept, that you intended to cause serious bodily harm.
‘It is also clear you didn’t care if you injured multiple pedestrians in order to get to Mr O’Flaherty. You might have easily killed someone.
Knapp was handed a total of seven years of imprisonment with an extra two years added to any time spent on licence
‘Although there was no premeditation, you made use of a car as a highly dangerous weapon and your motive was revenge.
‘The offence was reckless in the extreme. You lost control and acted in a way which might have easily killed several people.
‘It was committed while on bail, took place in public, at night and in front of members of the public who must have been terrified.
‘The victims were not known to you and it’s an aggravating feature that you were happy to harm a number of people in order to take revenge on Mr O’Flaherty.’
The court heard Knapp, who has seven previous convictions for 14 offences including kidnap, had been involved in violence while on remand in prison.
The judge added: ‘The way you have behaved since your arrest suggests you have not learnt your lesson or decided to turn over a new leaf.’
Trouble had flared inside the pub when Mr O’Flaherty tried to touch the face of one of Knapp’s female friends. Fighting broke out and both men were ejected by doormen.
Knapp, who claimed Mr O’Flaherty had glassed him ‘for no reason’, made his way to his friend’s Fiesta parked a few metres from the pub.
Three minutes later the car was then seen pulling up on Market Street in front of the bollards.
Knapp got out from the front passenger seat and his friend Sam Jones from the driver’s seat, brandishing a metal pole.
Knapp admitted wounding with intent and perverting the course of justice but was cleared of attempted murder during his trial at Maidstone Crown Court (file photo above) in June
As Mr Jones began to attack Mr O’Flaherty, Knapp ran back to the Fiesta and got into the driver’s seat.
Giving evidence at his trial, Knapp told the jury: ‘I was in a state of panic. I was trying to start the car and wasn’t thinking straight.
‘I was concerned that we were outnumbered, there was a lot of people with Sam and I wanted to get me and him out of the situation.
‘I had anger and wanted to hurt them but I didn’t want to kill them. I wanted to get me and my friend out of the way.
‘I had just been attacked for no reason, my friend was being attacked. I wanted to hurt them. I didn’t want to take no one’s life. It’s not me.’
Knapp admitted he knew he would injure someone by driving the car at them but said it was ‘a scare tactic’ and maintained: ‘I didn’t want to take a person’s life. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in jail.’
Asked by his barrister Danny Moore what injury he had intended when he allegedly accelerated and steered into the crowd, Knapp replied: ‘Not death. Broken bones, bruises.’
During cross-examination, Knapp said it was ‘all a blur’ when the Fiesta struck Mr Walpole and he could not recall if he had hit his brakes.
He also told the court he fled the scene because he was scared.
Mr Moore told the sentencing hearing that Knapp’s child was born while he was in custody awaiting trial.
Knapp, who was banned from driving for four years and three months, also admitted a separate offence of dangerous driving committed in August 2019.
He had taken cocaine and was driving a stolen car on false plates when he led police on a mile-long pursuit in Swanscombe, Kent.
A man who helped Knapp flee the country was later jailed for 15 months for perverting the course of justice.
Detective Constable Mike Rake, Kent Police’s investigating officer for the case, said: ‘Knapp committed a senseless and excessive act of violence that could have easily had fatal consequences.
‘Whatever provocation he may have felt he had experienced, there are no mitigating circumstances for using such force – force which led to two innocent people being injured.
‘His willingness to use such violence, coupled with his failed attempt to escape justice, shows him to be an exceptionally dangerous offender and I am pleased he has now faced justice.’