This is the moment a drink driver "totalled" his dad’s van by crashing it into a taxi then tried to cover up the head-on smash by claiming the vehicle had been stolen.
There were tears in the public gallery as George John Ellis, 24, of The Wharf, Preston Brook, Runcorn, was sentenced to 12 months in prison for perverting the course of justice, failing to stop and dangerous driving in connection with the accident.
Dashcam from his victim’s taxi showed the shocking moment the van lurched across into the wrong lane and straight into it, sending both vehicles spinning.
Peter Hussey, prosecuting, told Chester Crown Court there was nothing taxi driver David Chambers could have done.
He revealed how Ellis’s attempted cover-up began straight away.
Mr Chambers, 25, exited his car and the van driver approached and said "sorry" but then added words to the effect of: "I’ve had a drink, don’t involve the police".
The taxi driver briefly checked to make sure his female passenger was not injured before turning back to discover Ellis had "disappeared" and left the "stricken van behind".
At 7.40am the next day, Ellis rang Liverpool Victoria insurance and told them the van had been stolen the night before while he was watching football and that the keys must have been taken during a burglary.
He then tried to spin the same story with Cheshire police , and his own father.
Suspicions were soon brewing over the tall tale and officers arrested Ellis on October 28.
Between crashing and being arrested, Ellis was involved in a fight in a pub in which his eye socket was broken - fitting in with what Mr Hussey described as a "difficult" time for Ellis, during which time he had also been convicted of shoplifting in September.
Ellis's web of lies fell apart when police seized two mobile phones – one containing a WhatsApp chat in which he admitted to two friends that he had been "p***ed", had "totalled" the van, and then "made things worse by leaving the scene".
In custody he began by answering police questions about the collision and supposed burglary then switched to "no comment" answers when shown the dashcam.
He pleaded guilty at his first crown court appearance.
It was estimated that he may have drunk around four pints of beer at the time of the collision, as this was his usual daily intake at the time.
Although not seriously injured, Mr Chambers said he spent time off work due to the crash, and in a victim statement read to the court said he had suffered pain in his back, shoulders and legs for a week.
He continues to feel "nervous" when driving, which he has only recently returned to.
Mr Chambers added: “I still have anxiety, I can go to work and through no fault of my own have someone crash into me.
“It’s spoiled a big part of my job.”
His employer Sutton Executive Cars said the taxi remains out of action, and police estimated the damage cause at £30,000.
Charlotte Kenny, referred to six character references for her client.
At the time of the crash, Ellis was "not mentally well" due to a break-up which has now been patched up, she said.
She said Ellis wanted to express his apologies and "sincere remorse" to Mr Chambers.
Judge Patrick Thompson sentenced Ellis to 12 months in prison and banned him from driving for three years and six months.
He described the crash as an "almighty collision", adding that offences of perverting the course of justice "strike at the heart of the criminal justice system" and that "it's been made clear that people who do offences of this type can expect custodial sentences".
Jailing Ellis, Judge Thompson said: “I’ve seen the text message and it’s clear your actions were based on self-preservation, no doubt in shock and spare of the moment.
“What you didn’t do is make any enquiry as to how Mr Chambers’s passenger was.
“You made no enquiries how anybody was.
“You were only interested in getting away from the scene.
“The next morning when you weren’t under the influence of alcohol or acting in the spare of the moment, your actions then became very serious.”
Speaking after the hearing, Police Constable Stuart Beswick, who led the investigation at Runcorn Local Policing Unit, said: "At 6.40am on Wednesday, October 24, George Ellis reported to us that the keys to his dad’s van had been stolen from his house in Runcorn and the vehicle itself was then stolen from the driveway.
"The truth was that the previous night he had driven it on the wrong side of the road on the way home from watching a football match at a hotel.
"He collided head-on with a taxi, and after briefly talking to the driver he fled the scene on foot.
"The taxi driver was left with minor injuries which required hospital treatment and the collision caused extensive damage to both vehicles.
"The consequences of this incident could have been far worse.
"Forty-six people died on Cheshire’s roads last year, with many of these collisions caused by dangerous driving.
"Ellis told a series of lies in a bid to evade justice regarding his dangerous driving, to no avail.
"We are delighted that he is now behind bars facing the consequences of his actions and we hope that this case deters others from driving dangerously, fleeing the scene of a collision and attempting to pervert the course of justice."
Ellis must also pay a victim surcharge.