A truck driver who killed an off-duty Victorian police officer has “extensively” tattooed himself with tributes to his victim as he tries to process his remorse and distress, a court has heard.
- Samandeep Singh’s lawyer urged the court to impose a community-based order or a hospital security order on her client
- Singh has been held in remand for 145 days
- First Constable D’Arne De Leo’s partner Krisztina Toth said she had been “weighed down by anxiety and loneliness” since the death
Samandeep Singh, who killed First Constable D’Arne De Leo after his truck struck her at a Wantirna intersection in January 2017, now bears her police number on his body.
Singh pleaded guilty in March to dangerous driving causing death and today appeared in Victoria’s County Court for a pre-sentence hearing.
The court heard in the moments after the crash, Singh admitted to witnesses he knew the brakes of his truck were faulty, but later denied this to police, telling authorities they simply failed.
“This was not momentary inattention,” crown prosecutor Robyn Harper told the court.
“It’s a conscious decision to keep driving.”
The court heard since the collision, Singh, who is currently on a bridging visa, has attempted to kill himself a number of times.
“There has been extensive disclosure about suicidal ideation, including attempts by various means,” his barrister, Stephanie Wallace, told the court.
Ms Wallace said since the tragic incident, Singh had permanently inscribed himself with “demonstrable pictures on his body” of the tragic incident, including references to when it took place.
She urged the court to impose a community-based order or a hospital security order, which meant Singh, who has been remanded for the past 145 days, would be detained and treated by a mental health service.
But today Judge Michael Tinney said a community corrections order was a “fanciful disposition”.
He described Singh as “the captain of the ship” and said he should not have been driving the truck.
“He can’t point to someone else. He can’t point to deficient training,” Justice Tinney said.
“This truck … was an accident waiting to happen and he knew.”
Singh told witnesses his brakes ‘weren’t right’, court hears
On the day of the incident, Singh was driving a truck loaded with 13 tonnes of soap when he approached the intersection of Boronia Road and Eastlink, where First Constable De Leo was waiting on her Triumph motorcycle.
“The offender tried to apply the ineffective brakes … he was unable to stop and collided with Ms De Leo, killing her instantly,” prosecutor Ms Harper told the court.
In the moments after the crash, the court heard Singh told witnesses he knew his brakes “weren’t right” and he tried to slow down.
A forensic examination would later find the truck was not roadworthy and the rear brakes contributed to this.
The court heard Singh’s truck had been poorly loaded, with too much weight over the front axle, and the trucks were poorly maintained by the owner of the fleet.
A later examination of the fleet led to 10 out of 11 trucks being issued with defect notices.
Singh later denied what he said to witnesses following the crash, including knowing the brakes were defective.
“He said he was only the driver,” Ms Harper said.
She urged Judge Tinney to sentence Singh to jail.
The court heard from First Constable De Leo’s partner, Krisztina Toth, who said how terrified she felt when she saw three police officers at her door.
“I am weighed down by anxiety and loneliness,” Ms Toth said.
“I’m sad and angry that Dee will not see her goddaughters grow.
“She didn’t get to be by my side when my dad passed away or when her mum passed away.
“Her death and this tragedy should not have occurred.”
Singh sat in the dock with his head bowed as Ms Toth read out her victim impact statement to the court.
She glared at the truck driver as she returned to her seat.
First Constable De Leo’s father, Patrick, wept as he told the court of his anguish, but said his daughter would not hold a grudge.
“I don’t hate this man,” he said.
“I know this man has to be punished but I can’t say what his punishment should be.
“She would want this man to become a better person too.”
The court heard Singh ultimately wants to return to India, where he is from.
He will be sentenced next week.