JAILED: Pensioner killed three-year-old in crash when he shouldn't have been driving

The mother of a three-year-old who died when a pensioner struck them both down with his car has spoken of her devastation as her daughter's killer was sentenced to four years in jail.

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Poppy-Arabella Clarke, left, died after being hit by a car driven by John Place, right

Poppy-Arabella Clarke suffered fatal injuries after 72-year-old John Place failed to see a red light or pedestrians at a crossing and careered into the youngster and her mum Rachel.

Birmingham Crown Court heard how only three weeks before Place, of Bakers Lane, Streetly, had been told by his optician that he was not fit to drive even while wearing glasses, and on the day of the fatal collision he left his glasses at home.

Poppy-Arabella had been walking with her bike beside her mum on July 6 last year when she was fatally hit by Place in his green Volskwagen Passat as they crossed Chester Road in Boldmere.

Prosecutor Mr Gareth Walters said: "The car hit Mrs Clarke before she had time do anything. She ended up lying in the road with no idea what had happened to her daughter."

Speaking in person at the court, Poppy-Arabella's mother gave a heartfelt and tearful victim statement.

The moving tribute to her daughter included an extract from children's story The Velveteen Rabbit.

Mrs Clarke said: "It is a story that I read to my little girl Poppy-Arabella Rose Clarke and one which perfectly describes the relationship my daughter and I had, before she was runover and killed.

Quoting the book she said: "What is real?" the Velveteen Rabbit asked the Skin Horse one day. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become real.'

Mrs Clarke continued: "I once had a daughter, a little best friend, a little child's shadow always by my side, a kind, courageous, exceptionally funny and beautiful little girl, whom I loved and who I know loved me. I know she loved me because she told me every day."

Mrs Clarke continued: "She made people feel happy and good about themselves, she was so very clever and articulate for her age. She would always address any man as a gentleman, out of respect, as we have raised her to do so.

"If she saw anybody sad, crying or hurt, she would immediately go to help them, to make them feel better, and to offer her toy rabbit. She was respectful and care about people, whether you were two or 72."

Poppy-Arabella was pronounced dead after suffering a fractured skull, neck, eye bones, pelvis and ribs. Her mother had to use a wheelchair after her pelvis was fractured in four places, and sustained four broken ribs and a cut to the top of her head.

Defending Place, a married father of three who previously had no criminal convictions, Mr John Edwards said: "This a terrible blight on what was a thoroughly decent and upright life."

He confirmed that his client was suffering from a cognitive degenerative condition and depression, and that he expressed 'deep remorse' as shown by his early guilty pleas.

Passing sentence, Judge Simon Ward said: "There is incontrovertible evidence to the effect you had seen your opticians, less than a month before and you had been told in clear terms, that even wearing your glasses, you were no longer fit to drive.

"Furthermore, you were not happy with that, and you argued with the optician's advice."

Place was sentenced to four years in prison for causing death by dangerous driving, and two years to run concurrently for causing serious injury.

He must serve at least half of his sentence in jail, and cannot drive for five years after his release and without taking a re-test.

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