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Mum’s hug for man who ‘destroyed’ son

29 September 2009

By Ken McGregor
The Advertiser

A HEARTBROKEN mother has hugged the man who destroyed her only son’s life, saying she wants to work with him to educate other young drivers on how to avoid needless carnage on the roads.

AdelaideNow reports that in a remarkable act of compassion, Leeanne Groves yesterday told the South Australian District Court she had forgiven the driver – Christopher Martyn Lehman – for his “thoughtless and stupid mistake” which left her son, Dale Peake, with a “prolonged death sentence”.

She was delivering her victim impact statement yesterday during sentencing submissions for Lehman.

Ms Groves and Lehman hugged before entering court.

Mr Peake was left in a permanent vegetative state after Lehman, 24, of Salisbury East, fled from police after they pulled up behind him at traffic lights.

Lehman had been drinking with Mr Peake – his best friend – at the Clovercrest Hotel in Modbury North on December 4 last year when he made the tragic decision to drive them to a friend’s house.

The court heard Lehman “gunned it” from the police at speeds up to 120km/h before hitting a Stobie pole near the Slug ‘N’ Lettuce Hotel in Parafield Gardens.

The court heard Lehman had a blood-alcohol reading of 0.15.

Ms Groves told the court she felt sympathy for Lehman, even as she visited her son at the Julia Farr rehabilitation centre “not knowing . . . whether he is trapped inside his lifeless body”.

“Whatever the outcome is for Chris (Lehman) isn’t going to change Dale’s condition,” Ms Groves said.

“Chris also has a little girl and I don’t want any more heartache for his family. It must be a terrible time for them, also.

“I don’t want Chris to ever forget Dale and want him to always visit him and be his friend.

“Somehow, maybe together, we can educate other young drivers to try and help avoid more tragedy on our roads.

“To Chris and his family, I hope you are doing OK. I know that you must be suffering, too, and, as I do, wish we could turn back the clock and start again.”

Lehman faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a mandatory licence disqualification of 10 years.

Judge Millsteed remanded Lehman on continuing bail, to be sentenced next month.

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