David Armstrong's widow lashes out at killer

By Jill Nicholas

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He rarely looked away from her as she berated him for the life he'd taken, the unbearable hurt and devastation he'd caused her family, although he did occasionally dab his eyes as he sat in the Rotorua High Court dock yesterday.


Bishop pleaded guilty last month to the manslaughter of her husband of 27 years, 50-year-old David Peter Armstrong, by the unlawful act of dangerous driving and/or omitting to observe reasonable precautions and use reasonable care while driving to avoid danger to human life.


Mr Armstrong, of Bethlehem, died instantly when Bishop's car struck him as he was cycling on the Pyes Pa bypass with his wife on January 8 this year.


 


 


Yesterday, 22-year-old Bishop was sentenced to three-and-a-half years behind bars when he appeared before Justice Raynor Asher. He was also ordered to pay $5000 reparation to Mrs Armstrong and was disqualified from driving for three years.


 


Mrs Armstrong told of the vivid memory she had of hearing the noise of what sounded like a plane landing, but in fact was Bishop's car hurtling towards her and her husband as they rode inside the white line.

"I looked up and saw a car within centimetres of me, I saw David high in the air then dropping back on the road ... I will never forget his pale face, his eyes wide open, his tongue out, masses of blood, his helmet off his head, his cycle clothes torn. I said 'don't leave me', I told him I loved him again and again."


Mrs Armstrong said she had run towards the driver and his passenger who were sitting on the grass verge.


"I was screaming and hitting him, he said to me 'what do you want me to say?"'


She told of the anguish of seeing her husband in an ambulance under a yellow cover.


"I wanted to stay with him but they took him away, I had to tell our children he was dead."


Her daughter had flown home from Dunedin, her son had moved into her parents' home with her where she had remained for four months, too distraught to return to the home she and her husband had shared for so long.


Mrs Armstrong could not drive for four months and loud noises still terrified her.


"I considered myself to be capable, full of life, energy, now I feel so lost, angry, completely incapable of anything, I just want to run away from everyone and everything."


She described her husband as having a huge personality, the real love of her life.


"That has been taken away by you, Dillon Michael Bishop, I am angry, cheated by your reckless, stupid, selfish actions."


 


 


Mrs Armstrong had been forced into full-time work because of huge costs since her husband's death including his funeral, doctors' and solicitors' fees.


 


"It has all been very stressful, I loved my husband and I miss him."


It was especially upsetting that he had missed their daughter's university graduation in May.


"Today, I will probably get to hear how Dillon Michael Bishop is remorseful, that he didn't mean to do this, that he has to live with this for the rest of his life, that this will hang over him ... it most certainly does for us."


Shaking visibly, Mrs Armstrong said she had been told "Dillon Michael Bishop" had written her a letter, but she never wanted to read it or meet him. "My family and I are the real victims here."


She concluded by telling Bishop she hated him.


"You killed my husband, don't you ever forget what you have done."


Debbie Armstrong eyeballed the man who killed her husband and through heart-wrenching sobs told him he was selfish, reckless and irresponsible.


 


Modified car had no warrant and not allowed on road


 

The type of manslaughter charge Tauranga man Dillon Michael Bishop faced was so rare no similar cases could be found to compare it with.

This was revealed when he appeared for sentence yesterday.

Before sentencing there was a disputed facts hearing because Bishop took issue with a claim in the police summary of facts that, when he hit Mr Armstrong, it was the second time his modified vehicle had skidded, or drifted, out.

His passenger, Matthew Thorpe, was adamant there had been two skids and Justice Raynor Asher upheld this contention.

Tauranga Crown prosecutor Rob Ronayne submitted that the car, although lawfully modified specifically for skids, was permitted to be driven only on a race track not the open road. It was not registered or warranted, its plates came from a deregistered vehicle and a modification sticker attached to it was false.

The firm that had worked on the Nissan Skyline was so concerned about its condition, which included bald tyres, it contacted Bishop who told them it would only be used for on-track burnouts or drifting.

Bishop subsequently admitted he had often taken the car on the open road before it slid into Mr Armstrong.

"This is not one isolated piece of driving, it was a reckless activity to take it out on the road that day," Mr Ronayne said.

Crash scene experts had put Bishop's speed at no less than 127km/h similar to the defence experts' calculations.

He called Bishop's conduct "exhibitionist behaviour" and highlighted that Bishop had seen the two cyclists before his second skid.

"This vehicle had been modified to be unsafe, its diff had been welded so it couldn't execute a corner safely in ordinary circumstances, it was designer modified to go out of control," Mr Ronayne said.

Defence counsel, Tony Balme, said there was no evidence Bishop had previously drifted on a public road, although he had been candid about taking it out on four or five occasions. He submitted Bishop's speed had not been grossly excessive for that particular stretch of road.

Bishop had sought a restorative justice meeting with Mrs Armstrong but she had rejected this, as she had a letter he had written her.

Justice Asher said Mr and Mrs Armstrong had been supremely vulnerable when Bishop headed towards them at high speed in his "drag machine", telling Bishop he had deliberately engineered his second skid.

"This was dangerous driving far more serious than a driver taking a corner too fast," the judge said.

However, he accepted Bishop was a respectful, caring, clean-living young man who had given great support to his aunt battling cancer.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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