A FAMILY has described the terrifying moment a criminal crashed a stolen van through the front of their house and fled.
Patrick Cawley was behind the wheel of the Transit when he ploughed into the bay window of the Hurst family’s terraced house on Ryldon Place, Marton, as he evaded police.
At Preston Crown Court, judge Recorder Fiona Ashworth told the 38-year-old it was “a matter of pure good fortune nobody was hurt” – including a police officer who was forced to dive clear.
After Cawley was jailed for 12 months, homeowner Gareth Hurst described how the incident had forced them out of their home for two months and ruined their Christmas .
The insurance underwriter, who lives in the house with his wife Michelle and six-year-old son Sam, added: “We had been out and when we got back we could see the fence down. It was windy that night and we initially thought the wind had done it but then we saw the concrete posts down and then the car lights hit the house and we saw the bay window smashed in.
“The house was not deemed safe, the supporting beams had been damaged so we had to go into temporary accommodation over the Christmas period which was not great. We couldn’t get a builder to do the work so we were out of our home for two months.
“Thankfully nobody was home when it happened and our next door neighbour was out too luckily or he would have had a terrible fright. I’m glad that the police caught up with him and he has got his just desserts.”
Neighbours on the quiet cul-de-sac described their shock at the incident, and Hayley Brockus said: “I’m just glad it was not summer because there are always kids playing outside and one of them would have been run over, that’s what scared me.”
And Dave Cope added: “There was police car behind him and a helicopter up and everything got shut off round here.”
Cawley ran from police after crashing the van, which he had stolen earlier that day while a man was loading waste into it on West Park Drive.
The crash happened in December 2011, but Cawley has only just been sentenced.
Rachel Faux, prosecuting, told the court how the vehicle was immediately reported as stolen and spotted by police in heavy traffic on nearby Woodside Drive.
The police managed to block the van in but as he attempted to open the door and remove the ignition keys, Cawley revved the engine and sped off, forcing the officer to jump out of the way.
Cawley sped through a red light and drove through five give way junctions without stopping, narrowly missing a car and hitting a parked vehicle before hitting the house.
Cawley then fled police and was found hiding in a tree by the police helicopter. Miss Faux added: “When arrested he tried to escape, making threats to assault and kill police officers. He was restrained and put in a van.
“He was so violent he had to be further restrained to prevent damage to the van and him self harming.”
Cawley, of Belton Avenue, Rochdale, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving and aggravated vehicle taking at an earlier hearing.
He later jumped bail before a warrant for his arrest was executed in November.
Nigel Booth, defending, said his client was now hoping to seek help to keep him clear of drugs.
Recorder Ashworth said: “You drove in a very dangerous fashion in rush hour traffic.
“It is a matter of pure good fortune that nobody was hurt.”
Cawley was also banned from driving for three years.