Demi Leigh Royle

A VAN driver who ploughed into a six-year-old girl skipping along the pavement killing her instantly has been locked up for nine years.

Father-of-three Ross Robinson admitted downing four pints in an hour before he smashed into “little star” Demi-Leigh Royle after speeding through a red light.

Liverpool Crown Court heard the 24-year-old former soldier’s driving had been “appalling” after leaving the pub – veering into the wrong side of a dual carriageway, crossing a reservation and racing at speeds of up to 70mph in residential areas.

His erratic driving caught the attention of passing police officers and scores of passers-by.

Witnesses described him racing through a red light at the junction of Hillside Road and Astley Road, then swerving across the road and onto the opposite pavement – sending little Demi-Leigh flying.

The youngster had been skipping along the street with her friend Faye singing songs.

The pair were just in front of Faye’s mother Hannah Standley, who was pushing a pram carrying her other daughter Izabella.

Jailing Robinson, the Recorder of Liverpool Judge Henry Globe QC said: “It was extremely fortunate you did not plough into the whole group of them killing all four of them.

“Sadly you did collide with Demi causing her immediate death.”

Judge Globe added: “Demi-Leigh was a six-year-old loving and loveable little girl who was happily walking on the pavement with an adult friend of the family who was pushing a pram and was with her two children when you lost control of the van you were driving, mounting the kerb, collided with her killing her.

“The devastation caused by her death to family and friends is unimaginable.

The victim personal statements are heartrending. Fun laughter and happiness at school and at home has been replaced by emotion, distress, tension and anger.”

Graham Pickavance, prosecuting, told the court Robinson had been drinking in two pubs in Prescot before climbing into his step-father’s Fiat Ducato van at about 9.40pm on May 16.

Witnesses described him hitting a gate as he reversed out the car park, narrowly missing another car.

Judge Globe said: “You were described as zigzagging at excessive speeds until turning down Astley Road.

“This was a residential area with shops, houses and pedestrians all around. You hit the kerb and lost control, travelling across the road on to the opposite pavement were pedestrians were walking.”

After the crash Robinson, who has previous convictions for taking vehicles without consent, abandoned the van and fled the scene.

When police forced entry to the Former Welsh Fusilier’s house seven hours later he said: “Is she dead?”

Toxicology reports suggested Robinson had drunk more than five pints.

Members of Demi-Leigh’s family wept quietly as Judge Globe jailed Robinson, who pleaded guilty to death by dangerous driving, and banned him from driving for 10 years.

After the hearing the parents and family of Demi-Leigh released a statement saying: “We are happy with today’s sentence but nothing will change the way we feel about losing Demi-Leigh. There will always be part of our family missing and we find ourselves taking little steps to get through each day.”

Demi leaves behind her mother Paula Roberts and father Stephen Royle, four brothers and two sisters.