A drink-driver has been jailed for crashing into a charity cyclist and leaving him seriously injured by the roadside in North Devon.

Stephen Evans had just failed an eye test and was four times over the limit when he veered onto the wrong side of the road on a blind bend and hit professional cyclist Jean-Pierre de Villiers.

He was on the eighth day of a charity ride from John O’Groats to Land’s End when he was knocked off the road and down a steep bank, where his fall was only stopped by hitting a small tree.

He suffered horrific injuries including having both legs shattered, an arm broken and a lung punctured. He was airlifted to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth where he spent two weeks in intensive care.

Mr de Villiers is a lifestyle guru, personal trainer and inspirational speaker who has spent 18 months battling back to fitness after the accident on the A399 at Combe Martin in May 2019.

Jean Pierre de Villiers in Derriford Hospital

He read out a moving victim impact statement at an earlier hearing in which he told Evans that he forgave him and hoped he would be able to overcome his alcohol addiction.

Evans was banned from driving because of a drink drive conviction in 2018. He had been told to drive until he got new spectacles after an eye test the day before the accident.

He had borrowed his ex-partner’s car without her permission after an argument and was so drunk that police found him collapsed in an alleyway shortly after the crash.

The windscreen of the Ford Focus was shattered by the impact with the cyclist but Evans drove on regardless before dumping the wrecked car in Combe Martin and staggering off.

Stephen Evans has been jailed for two and a half years and banned from driving for 10 years after his release
Stephen Evans has been jailed for two and a half years and banned from driving for 10 years after his release

Mr de Villiers was found by a couple who drove past the scene and saw the wreckage of his bike on the road. He had been thrown so far that he was not visible and was only found because they heard his groans as they were getting back into their car.

Evans, aged 69, of Wilder Road, Ilfracombe, admitted causing serious injury by dangerous driving, drink driving, driving while disqualified and uninsured, and failing to stop.

He was jailed for two-and-a half-years and banned from driving for ten years after his release by Judge David Evans, who ordered an extended re-test.

He told him: ”Mr de Villiers suffered awful injuries. You heard him read his personal statement, so you are entirely aware of the long process of recovery which is still not completed.

“You caused those injuries by dangerous driving. The danger was not only from you getting behind the wheel without corrected vision or of you colliding with him on the wrong side of the road.

Jean-Pierre de Villiers in hospital

“You were also just over four times the legal limit for alcohol, disqualified from driving, and you had no insurance. This was driving that created at least a substantial risk of causing serious injury.

“You quite literally added insult to injury because after this very obvious impact you did not try to find out what you had done but drove on despite the severe damage to the windscreen.

“In mitigation, some remorse was detectable in your response to his very magnanimous expressions of forgiveness.”

Emma Cross, prosecuting, said the accident happened at 5pm on May 22 last year on a bend on the road between Ilfracombe and Combe Martin when Mr de Villiers was on a 1,000 mile charity bike ride.

He has no memory of the accident which happened when Evans veered onto the wrong side of the road and hit his bike with such force that he was thrown the other side of a metal barrier which protected a sharp drop.

Evans was returning his partner’s Ford Focus which he had taken without permission after a row the day before. He gave a blood alcohol reading of 329 milligrams per 100 millilitres, the limit being 80.

Jean-Pierre de Villiers (right) and cycling partner Callum O’Brien

He had been advised not to drive the day before after an eye test showed he had 6/20 vision, half that needed to drive safely.

Jason Beal, defending, said Evans was suffering from alcohol addiction at the time and expressed true remorse after hearing Mr de Villiers victim impact statement.

At the last hearing, Mr De Villiers told Evans that he forgave him and wanted him to overcome the demons that led him to alcoholism.

The impact statement detailed the huge effect which the crash had on him and his wife Julia, who had to suspend her own design business to look after him.

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He said it was sheer frustration to go from being a highly fit athlete to being on crutches for weeks and enduring hours of agonising physiotherapy.

He said: “There are so many questions. I have thought about why it happened. I have no memory of the collision but as well as my injuries to remind me, I wake up at night with the smell of intensive care in my head.

“I have been asked what I feel about the driver. I feel nothing other than not wanting him to be on the road. I have zero animosity or negativity towards him.

Callum O’Brien celebrates completing the epic ride with injured cycling partner Jean-Pierre de Villiers

“I forgave him straight away. I even feel sorry for him. For me, this was a life changing experience, but I am grateful to be alive.

“Mr Evans, I want you to know I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. There are consequences and repercussions for what you did to me.

“I really hope that whatever happens to you, you can use the time to heal whatever you need to heal and that you come out of this a better and stronger man. I forgive you.”

Evans wept as he replied from the dock.

He sobbed as he said: ”I wish you the best. I never went out to hurt anyone. I wish it was the other way round. I would not be here and you would not be here.

“I pray for you most days, I pray hard. What you said got to me. I would have thought you would have a lot of animosity. I never meant to harm you, I am very, very sorry.”





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