Florida hit-and-run driver 'stopped minutes earlier'

By Steve Hayes 16/02 Updated: 24/02 09:34

Buy photos » LeVin is now under house arrest at his luxury apartment (s)

THE MILLIONAIRE hit-and-run driver who killed two Stratford businessmen in Florida had been stopped by police minutes before he hit them, an inquest has heard.

An inquest in Leamington into the deaths of Kenneth Watkinson and Craig Elford was held this morning (Thursday) - almost exactly three years after they were run down and killed.

Coroner Sean McGovern returned a verdict of unlawful killing after Ryan LeVin mounted the pavement and ploughed his Porsche 911 Turbo into them outside their hotel in, Fort Lauderdale, on February 13, 2009.

It was the first time the circumstances of the incident had been heard in a British court - with LeVin having pleaded guilty and sentenced in US courts to killing 48-year-old Mr Watkinson, from Harbury, near Leamington, and 36-year-old Mr Elford, from Ratley.

The pair, both husbands and fathers, had only been in Florida two days, on a trip to recruit for their Stratford-based pharmaceutical business, Ingala Healthcare, when they were mown down and killed instantly in the early hours.

The inquest, which neither men's families attended, heard evidence from Fort Lauderdale investigators regarding the incident.

It was revealed LeVin had been stopped by traffic police and given a warning just five minutes before he knocked the men down on Seabreeze Boulevard in the city at around 2.20am.

The hearing also heard how after the incident LeVin sped off from the scene and then tried to cover up the incident with the help of friend Derek Cook.

In the minutes after the crash Cook came to meet LeVin and the two were seen on CCTV filling up Cook's BMW at a petrol station before they swapped cars and drove off.

Traffic cops who had been alerted to look out for a white Porsche, which lost one of its headlights in the smash, tried to stop Cook, who was now driving the car, but he sped off at more than 100mph and escaped them before dumping the car.

LeVin was subsequently charged with two counts of vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an accident and sentenced.

But he avoided jail after the widows of both men agreed substantial compensation payouts last June and was instead ordered to serve a two-year house arrest sentence at his luxury apartment at the Points of America complex in Fort Lauderdale. He was also given a lifetime driving ban.

Mr Watkinson's mother Emily spoke out against the ruling at the time - slamming the system for allowing LeVin to 'buy his freedom'.

Returning his verdict at Warwickshire Justice Centre, Coroner Sean McGovern said he was 'entirely satisfied' the driving of LeVin warranted him to return a verdict of unlawful death.

Buy photos» Kenneth Watkinson with wife Kirtsy and son Max (s)
Buy photos» A CCTV image captures the harrowing moment the car hit the two men (s)

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