A farmer faces a prison sentence for a hit-and-run accident that left another pensioner dead and which he "deliberately" tried to blot out of his mind, magistrates said.

David John Kemp, 67, of Hammingden Farm, Hammingden Road, Ardingly, was driving his Isuzu Trooper 4x4 along the A272 between Ansty and Bolney at about 5pm on November 16 last year when he hit 76-year-old Derek Titheradge, from Cuckfield.

Mr Titheradge died at the scene from multiple injuries but Kemp carried on and only gave himself up the following night when he heard a police appeal on the television news for the driver involved to come forward.

During a three day trial at Horsham and Haywards Heath courts Kemp pleaded not guilty to careless driving. He pleaded guilty to failing to stop and failing to report an accident, claiming that he thought he had hit a post, not a person.

On Monday, magistrates found him guilty of careless driving after hearing that he knew his Isuzu Trooper had a faulty alternator and that eventually the lights were likely to fail and that if the car stopped for any reason it was unlikely to start again.

Presiding magistrate, Mrs Brenda Large, said: "We conclude on the balance of probabilities that he must have known that he had hit a substantial object which might have been a pedestrian, but deliberately chose to put it out of his mind."

Earlier prosecutor Rhiannon Sadler had produced evidence from other drivers who had seen Mr Titheradge even though it was dark. There was no pavement and some saw him walking in the road and took avoiding action.

The court heard from two drivers who saw the split second impact.

Concrete layer John Fox, of Upper Beeding, said: "The elderly gentleman was thrown off the vehicle into the bushes and the undergrowth.

"It was one of the only times in my life that I had a gut feeling about something and it was making me feel physically sick so I just had to go back."

Philip O'Neill, from Uckfield, who passed Kemp's vehicle just as it hit Mr Titheradge, said he heard a terrible crunching noise, like "crunching cornflakes" even though his windows were shut and his radio was on.

Kemp told the court he heard and felt an impact but thought he had hit a post.

"I really didn't see the point of stopping and looking for a post in the dark and I was anxious to keep going because it was getting darker all the time," he said.
Kemp, who wore bifocal glasses and had had an eye operation six weeks earlier, said that at no time had he seen Mr Titheradge. Even though his lights were dimmer than normal because of the dodgy alternator, he said he was being "as vigilant as is possible".

The following afternoon Mr Kemp said he heard the headline item on the local news about the hit-and-run on the Ansty Road.

Miss Sadler said: "I contend that you didn't want to stop; you were determined to get home and you ignored what had happened. It became apparent to you, although quite shockingly, that you had hit someone and you just didn't want to believe it and, through either shock or fear, you were worried what was going to happen so you ploughed on home."

Defending, Tim Leete, said it was dangerous for anyone to walk along that road at night and anyone of the other drivers on the road at the time were lucky not to hit Mr Titheradge.

The court head that Mr Titheradge had had a stroke and needed some help with his daily routine, but was still fiercely independent.

Magistrates adjourned sentence until July 28, saying they would be considering all options, including a prison sentence. Kemp, who it was revealed had a previousconviction for drink-driving, was banned from driving until then.

After the hearing Mr Titheradge's three daughters, who travelled from Surrey, Scotland and Oxfordshire, said their father had asked for directions in Ansty itself and may have become confused and headed out of the village on the wrong road to get home to Cuckfield

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