WATCH: Hit-and-run driver who left Coventry policeman in a coma jailed for seven years - The Coventry Observer

10th Aug, 2022

WATCH: Hit-and-run driver who left Coventry policeman in a coma jailed for seven years

John Carlon 3rd Mar, 2020 Updated: 3rd Mar, 2020

THE HIT-and-run driver who left Coventry policeman Chris Burnham in a coma has been jailed for seven years.

Tekle Lennox struck PC Burnham as he attempted to evade police in Holbrooks last year.

The 48-year-old officer was thrown onto the bonnet of Lennox’ Mini and he suffered serious injuries as his head shattered the windscreen.

Following the incident on September 25, PC Burnham was in coma for several days and he spent a month in hospital.

At Warwick Justice Centre today (March 3), Lennox, of no fixed abode, was jailed for seven years and four months.

PC Burnham was with a colleague on patrol in a marked police car when he spotted Lennox − who was wanted over a domestic robbery − turn onto Foleshill Road.

With other officers he pursued the 37-year-old, who failed to stop but got snared up in traffic approaching the roundabout with Burnaby Road.

PC Burnham sprinted towards the stationary Mini to arrest Lennox, but he sped off and veered right around the island before hitting the officer entering Holbrook Lane.

A spokeswoman for West Midlands Police said: “In our investigation we found the Mini abandoned a short distance away and seized CCTV showing Lennox running off from the car with his dog.

“A manhunt was launched and on the evening of 27 September Lennox was arrested in Outermarch Road, Coventry, after an officer spotted him in the street.

“Lennox − who was banned from the roads in 2017 for dangerous driving and again the next year for driving while disqualified − was initially charged with attempted murder but yesterday admitted wounding with intent to resist arrest.”

PC Burnham − who is married and has one son − has not returned to policing since as he continues his recovery from the physical and psychological consequences of the collision.

He has served as a police officer for 25 years.

Investigating officer, Detective Sergeant Phil Caldwell, said: “The officers activated their patrol car’s blue lights and indicated for the driver to stop. Lennox, knowing he was wanted and banned from driving, made off and struck PC Burnham as he ran around the island to try and stop him escaping.

“The impact lifted the PC off his feet and he was carried on the bonnet for three seconds. We estimated Lennox was travelling at around 21mph when he struck PC Burnham.

“The officer suffered a very serious head injury and a shattered knee…we could easily have been looking at a murder enquiry.”

Speaking just before Christmas, PC Burnham said he’ll be “forever grateful” to colleagues and medical staff who helped him.

Today he added: “I just want to say a huge thank you, not just to the police, judicial service and of course the NHS, but to the public – those who know me and those who don’t.

“It’s just nice to know that fundamentally there are good people out there and they’ve supported me and family. Their support has helped me get back onto my feet.”

PC Burnham added he is still taking one day at a time and not making any long-term plans. But he said he’s missing being on the beat in Foleshill and working with the Salvation Army to help vulnerable people in his patch.

Coventry Police Commander, Chief Superintendent Mike O’Hara, said: “Policing is like a close family and the injury Chris suffered had a real impact on all of us in Coventry. There are many officers and staff in regular contact with Chris and his family and we continue to do all we can to ensure he has the best support possible.

“Policing is a hugely rewarding job, helping people in need and striving to make people’s lives better. But there are highs and lows and it remains a difficult and dangerous job.

“Chris has served the people of Coventry brilliantly over many years and I really hope that we will see him patrolling his patch in Foleshill soon.”

Jon Nott, chair of West Midlands Police Federation, said the sentence was too lenient: “PC Christopher Burnham was doing his duty, protecting the public, proactively attempting to arrest a wanted man.

“That man – Tekle Lennox, a serial offender – then chose to try to avoid arrest and, in doing so, hit PC Burnham with his car, carrying him on his bonnet for 42 metres, causing him serious injuries; injuries which could easily have killed him, and which left him in a coma.

“After the attack, Lennox waited until yesterday before admitting his guilt prolonging the trauma faced by Chris and his family. Today he was sentenced to seven years and four months in prison. This sentencing is shocking in its leniency, but sadly not surprising.

“Lennox will serve significantly less than the sentence, and then be free to resume his life. But Chris, his wife and their young son – who have suffered months of pain, worry and anguish – will have to deal with the effects of this incident for the rest of their lives.

“We have supported him, his loved ones, his colleagues and the wider West Midlands Police family since this terrible incident and we will now liaise with the Crown Prosecution Service about appealing this unduly lenient sentence.”

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