‘Despicable and cowardly’ driver who hit beloved community leader so hard her body was embedded in his car before he dragged her into an alley and left her to die is jailed
- Hit-and-run driver is jailed after killing a respected Melbourne community leader
- Thomas Street, 32, was sentenced to just 22 months in prison for the death
- South Sudanese community leader Abiol Atem Manyang died instantly in 2019
A ‘despicable and cowardly’ hit-and-run driver has been sentenced to just 22 months in prison for killing a mother-of-five.
Thomas Street, 32, struck South Sudanese community leader Abiol Atem Manyang, 46, so hard her body was embedded in his car when she attempted to cross Ballarat Road, Ardeer, in Melbourne‘s west in May 2019.
The black Holden Commodore then dragged her for hundreds of meters before Street dumped her body on a nature strip where he left the beloved woman known as Mama Abiol to die.
Street was given such a light sentence because Judge Peter Lauritsen ruled his driving did not play a role in the crash.
Instead, he was jailed solely for failing to stop and help.
Abiol Atem Manyang (pictured), known in the Melbourne Sudanese community as Mama Abiol, was killed crossing the road in Ardeer in Melbourne’s west in 2019
The Victorian County Court heard on Tuesday the force of the crash meant Ms Manyang died instantly when she flew through the windscreen and into the car.
But Street kept driving for another 220m before stopping, removing the body and leaving it on grass between the footpath and road.
One of Ms Manyang’s heartbroken daughters told the court her mother was dumped by Mr Street like she was ‘some worthless animal’.
Street then drove to his Cairnlea home, removed the number plates from his unregistered vehicle, hid it under a car cover and showered.
He told someone he lived with he thought he’d hit someone, and they convinced Street to turn himself in the next day.
Judge Lauritsen said his sentence should send a message that drivers should stop immediately and render assistance, the Herald Sun reported.
‘What you did was despicable and cowardly,’ Judge Lauritsen said.
Ms Manyang struck the car’s side and left bonnet before she was dragged 200 metres down the road
But the judge had more tough words for Street after it was revealed that he had re-offended while on bail after caught with an imitation firearm and a knife in his car.
Judge Lauritsen said it ‘led me to doubt your remorse’.
Street was on bail at the time, with a criminal history including a string of driving offences.
He tested positive for marijuana but prosecutors did not say this played a part in the crash.
Ms Manyang came to Australia from South Sudan in 2003 and mentored children across Melbourne, teaching traditional dance to younger generations.
Her parents were both killed in the nation’s civil war in 1991.
Forced to flee her homeland due to conflict, she met her husband at a camp for displaced people and they later came to Australia where they had three daughters and two sons.
Ms Manyang’s husband told the court his wife’s death left him ‘culturally stranded’ when it came to their daughters.
One of Ms Manyang’s heartbroken daughters told the court her mother was dumped by Mr Street like she was ‘some worthless animal’
One of them is pregnant and cannot have her own mother at her side to help.
Ms Manyang was a much-loved Sunday school teacher, cultural educator and community leader.
About 5,000 mourners attended her funeral.
Street, who worked as a foreman, pleaded guilty to failing to stop and render assistance.
He cannot get a licence for five years and was also fined $750 for driving an unregistered car,
The court heard Street has dozens of convictions for firearms, dishonesty and driving offences.
But after already serving 92 days of his 22 month sentence Street will be eligible for parole in just 15 months.