I Realise Your Career Is at an End but You Must Realise That Mr Graham's Life Is Also at an End; HIT-RUN DEATH CRASH FOOTBALL STAR GETS 6 YEARS JUDGE CHRISTOPHER HODSON YESTERDAY
Byline: ROD CHAYTOR
FOOTBALLER Lee Hughes was counting the cost of a ruined career last night as he started six years in jail for killing a man in a car crash - then fleeing from the scene.
As Premiership West Brom tore up his pounds 1million-a-year contract, a judge told Hughes he had shown "callous disregard" for the victim he left dying just after midnight - 56-year-old builder Douglas Graham. A second casualty now needs a wheelchair.
The 28-year-old striker - said to have been driving "like a madman" after downing the equivalent of six whiskies - waited 34 hours before he gave himself up to police.
Judge Christopher Hodson said he was "quite certain" Hughes went on the run to avoid being breathalysed.
Ruling that Hughes serve at least three years, he added: "While I realise that your football career is at an end, be reminded that Douglas Graham's life is at an end."
After a six-day trial, the jury at Coventry crown court took just 90 minutes to find him guilty of causing death by dangerous driving on November 23 last year.
Hughes's pounds 100,000, 5.5 litre CL55 Mercedes smashed into a Renault Scenic, in which Mr Graham and his wife were passengers.
The star's Croatian-born wife Anna, a mother-of-two, sobbed at the verdict. Hughes bit his lip but was otherwise unmoved.
The Graham family gave cries of "Yes", then broke down in tears.
Mr Graham's widow Maureen, 51, a grandmother, said later: "My husband was a loving, caring husband and a good father to four children.
"Nobody can understand the huge amount of grief and stress that has been caused to my family over the last nine months.
"One thing has been taken away from my family that can never be replaced. We know that we must now simply attempt to come to terms with the loss.
"We can only hope that the person involved will acknowledge what he has done to my family.
"I hope that person and everyone in similar circumstances can learn from the terrible things that happened on that night."
Renault driver Albert Frisby, 59, broke both knees and damaged his hip. His daughter Angela, 37 said: "It gives all the families involved some justice.
"He is now bound to a wheelchair and I have had to care for him full-time while my mum goes out to work."
On the Saturday evening before the crash, Hughes - an ex-roofer who came from non-League football to find instant fame with West Brom - had played in their televised home match against Reading.
He drove back to his pounds 750,000 mock-Tudor home in Meriden, Warwicks, then picked up friend Ade Smith in his silver Mercedes coupe.
They went to the nearby Queen's Head and a second pub. At closing time, Hughes and Smith invited three lads they had met during the night to his house, where he had a pool table and bar. In evidence, Hughes claimed he had drunk two Jack Daniel's whiskies with coke and taken only a sip of a third. Bar staff said he had been served double measures.
Hughes lost control of his Mercedes as he took a bend at speed and hit the oncoming Renault.
Mr and Mrs Graham were in the back, getting a lift home from a Country and Western night. Mr Graham, who was not wearing a seatbelt, suffered head injuries. …