Man who left Mansfield ‘supercop’ for dead is jailed

Diederik Coetzee at home with his daughters
Diederik Coetzee at home with his daughters

A 26-year-old man who left a Mansfield police officer for dead after a hit and run has been jailed for 15 months.

Mitchel Graham, of Grange Road in Blidworth, who had previously pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, as well as failing to stop after a collision and failing to report a collision, was sentenced today at Nottingham Crown Court.

He was also banned from driving for five years.

Mansfield South beat officer PC Diederik Coetzee was left in a critical condition following the crash, which happened in Blidworth Lane, Blidworth, on Friday 25th November last year. 
The now 55-year-old, who joined Nottinghamshire Police in June 2001, was cycling towards Blidworth when a Volkswagen Corrado, driven by Graham, struck him from behind and failed to stop.

The car was later seized by police as part of their enquiries into the crash and Graham was arrested in Sunderland after he handed himself in at a police station.

Hundreds of messages of support and well wishes from colleagues and members of the public have flooded into Nottinghamshire Police for PC Coetzee and his family since the collision. 
Nearly nine months on, he continues to receive intensive rehabilitation treatment, and is making slow but steady progress.

In a statement, PC Coetzee’s family said: “This has been the most testing time for us as a family. Not only do we value and appreciate the selflessness of our loving father and husband, but so do the wider community of Mansfield and the police community, both local and afar. They obviously see the same valued qualities in him that we do.

“We received an overwhelming amount of emails and cards which made us aware just how well respected he is.

“The collision has undoubtedly changed his life and our lives forever.

“It is important to promote road safety among drivers and cyclists. Our dad always encouraged us to wear high-visibility clothing and helmets, and have sufficient lights on our bikes. But we know it takes all road users to be aware of what they need to do to encourage and promote safer roads. 

“Our lives have certainly taken a dramatic turn, but we still remain close and we always try to keep a positive stance on things.

“The help and support from everyone, especially the police, has really helped us to overcome the initial incredibly difficult time while he was at King’s Mill Hospital and during his current specialist treatment.

“We would like to take this time to thank everyone who has sent emails, cards and messages of encouragement, from near and far, and to all of the doctors and nurses who have taken good care of my father. We truly have noticed their compassion and how important our National Heath Service is.

“The money that was so kindly raised by the local community has been donated to King’s Mill Hospital, as we felt it was important to share it with our local community.”

Detective Sergeant Ged Hazelwood, who led the investigation, said: “Irrespective of the victim being a police officer, this has been a very emotive investigation.

“The brave battle by Diederik during his rehabilitation has been an inspiration to all involved and cemented the need to bring to justice the man who left him critically injured at the side of the road that night.

“The entire Force has been rooting for Diederik during his recuperation, and we have been supporting him and his family as they make this long and difficult journey to recovery.

“There has also been a massive response from the public, from members of the Mansfield South community for which Diederik is the Beat Manager, to police officers from foreign forces, all wishing him well.

“While today’s result will not change the very trying circumstances he now finds himself in, Diederik is a tough man, in mind, body and spirit, and we hope he and his family will now be able to focus solely on his progress.

“Diederik is one of a number of cyclists and pedestrians who are not seen by other road users. I would like to remind all motorists to look out for these vulnerable people on the carriageways.

“If you lose concentration and, as a result, hurt or kill someone, you will have a tragedy on your conscience and a family having to pick up the pieces.

“Nottinghamshire Police will leave no stone unturned in ensuring you face justice.”