In the Media

Why was farm lorry thief left free to kill, asks grieving family

PUBLISHED June 6, 2006

The family of a woman crushed to death by a lorry driven by a career criminal questioned yesterday how he was able to kill her while being monitored by the authorities.

Cherita Gates, 53, a stepmother to three children, died as she tried to prevent Stewart Dimech stealing a lorry loaded with expensive machinery from land behind her farm in Uxbridge, west London.

Her killer had accelerated the seven-and-a-half ton vehicle towards her as she tried to pull a barrier across the exit to the farm. Mrs Gates, a former singer, was crushed between the vehicle and the side of a building and died instantly.

The Old Bailey heard yesterday how, moments earlier, she had been sitting in her conservatory, drinking tea with Roger Gates, her former husband whom she planned to remarry and who witnessed her death.

Dimech, 41, of Luton, was originally charged with murder, but the prosecution accepted his plea to manslaughter and conspiracy to steal.

The court heard that Dimech and his accomplice, Lawrence Cawley, 33, had between them stolen up to ?1 million worth of plant machinery and vehicles over two decades.

Dimech was taking part in a drug treatment order after an earlier court appearance and Cawley had been tagged after serving only one month of a sentence.

Mr Gates, 69, said he was shocked that both men were being monitored by the authorities.

"I call it slackness," he added. "They were hardened criminals, but were not in prison."

John Morrisen, 59, Mrs Gates's brother, said: "Tagging clearly doesn't work, does it? I think the law should be changed."

The jury heard that in October 2004 Dimech and three other men were driving around west London looking for valuable heavy vehicles to steal.

When they arrived at Smith's Farm they loaded three diggers on to a lorry. Edward Brown, prosecuting, said: "There was a noise by the barrier which both Mr and Mrs Gates heard and both left the conservatory.

"Mrs Gates was pulling a barrier across the entrance when Mr Gates heard and then saw a lorry driven by Stewart Dimech appearing from behind a willow tree. The lorry accelerated towards the exit.

"Mr Gates called to the driver to stop. The lorry, however, continued. As he jumped to one side, Mr Gates saw the lorry's side hit the side of a building by the exit.

"At the very same moment Mrs Gates was also hit and went backwards.

"The collision rendered the lorry immobile and crushed Mrs Gates. She was killed instantly."

Yesterday Dimech was jailed for 10 years. Cawley was jailed for three years for conspiracy. His case was adjourned while lawyers consider whether the judge could jail him for a further 278 days for breach of his tagging parole.