Father jailed after autistic son, 12, killed on M62 as pair tried to flee down motorway following drink-driving crash

6 November 2023, 20:36 | Updated: 7 November 2023, 00:58

Callum Rycroft, 12
Callum Rycroft, 12. Picture: West Yorkshire Police/Alamy

By Kit Heren

A father has been jailed for ten years after his autistic son, 12, was run over by a car as they fled the scene of a motorway crash on foot in August.

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Callum Rycroft, from Leeds, died after being hit by the car on the M62 in West Yorkshire.

His father Matthew Rycroft, 37, had been driving on the motorway with Callum after "drinking heavily".

Their Audi hit a barrier and overturned on the slip road near Huddersfield. Rycroft and Callum left and walked for nearly a mile along the side of the road before crossing to the central reservation.

At one point, Rycroft fell over and had to be helped up by Callum, who also suffered from spina bifida.

They then crossed back towards the hard shoulder. Rycroft made it, but Callum was hit by a car and died.

Read more: Man arrested after boy, 12, killed by car in hit-and-run on M62 in West Yorkshire

Read more: Extinction Rebellion activist who stabbed fiance to death as he begged her not to jailed for at least 24 years

West Yorkshire Police named Callum Rycroft as the victim of the incident.
West Yorkshire Police named Callum Rycroft as the victim of the incident. Picture: West Yorkshire Police

His father didn't even stop for him, carrying on for 400 metres instead and hiding in a bush, where he was later found by police.

He has been sentenced to ten years in prison after pleading guilty to manslaughter, driving dangerously and failing to provide a specimen.

Callum's mother Claire Bancroft left Rycroft over their son's death. She said: "Callum died as a result of Matt's actions - something I can't forgive him for.

She added: "I saw a bright future for Callum, I just know he would have achieved anything, and I am certain he would have got a good job, he would have been so good with anything practical.

"What makes matters worse, if that could be possible, is that my children have lost their dad as well as their brother and they know Callum is not here because of their dad.

"Matt has torn the family apart, he has hurt a lot of people, but mostly he has let Callum down, all because of his selfishness."

Matthew Harding, mitigating, said there was "so much that was good about Matthew Rycroft's relationship with Callum".

"He will have to live with the utterly tragic consequences of his actions that night for the rest of his life," he told the court.

Rycroft, who appeared via a video link from prison, could be seen sobbing and wiping his eyes as he sat with his head bowed throughout the hearing.

Sentencing Rycroft, Judge Guy Kearl KC, the Recorder of Leeds, said: "Not content with placing yourself, Callum and other road users in danger by the standard of your driving, you attempted to escape the scene by running away.

"You fell at one point, he picked you up. Worse than that, you then elected to take your son across a very busy stretch of motorway, which, knowing his limitations as you did, and his age, and his vulnerabilities, you had to have been aware that would cause him confusion and fear.

"You deliberately placed Callum in a situation where his chances of another safe crossing were slim at best."

The court heard Rycroft has numerous convictions for driving whilst disqualified, but did have a valid driving licence at the time of the crash.

Prosecutor Michael Smith said he had visited his parents in Huddersfield with Callum and had cut the grass at Paddock Cricket Club before starting to drink and socialise in the clubhouse, buying lager, spirits and shots.

CCTV footage from the club shows Rycroft being "demonstrably unsteady on his feet" as he left the club at around 9.10pm.

The court heard Rycroft's father thought his son was not fit to drive and offered him and Callum a bed for the night, but he decided to return to their home in Harehills, Leeds, instead.

Rycroft's parents called him to try and persuade him to stop, and could hear Callum crying and saying his dad would not stop.

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