Mother’s heartache as killer of Chloe Cockton to be allowed home leave from prison

Date published: 18 January 2019

The mother of Chloe Cockton, who was killed by a dangerous driver, is furious after hearing her daughter’s killer will be allowed home leave after transferring to an open prison, despite serving just over two years of a six-and-a-half-year sentence.

16-year-old Chloe Cockton was tragically killed in July 2016 after the car she was a passenger in crashed at the junction of Bury Road and Mellor Street. Witnesses reported seeing the car travelling between 60mph and 70mph before it rolled and collided with a pedestrian barrier on the opposite side of the carriageway.

Driver Michael Bowker, then 19, was sentenced in November 2016 to six-and-a-half years in a Young Offender Institution after pleading guilty to causing Chloe’s death by dangerous driving and two counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

CCTV footage showed Bowker travelling well above the 30mph speed limit on the wrong side of the road, before driving back on to the correct side of the road and braking heavily. He then lost control as he swerved to the left and struck the nearside kerb.

One of the other girls travelling in the vehicle suffered serious injuries including collar bone fractures, cuts and bruising.

The third girl suffered a fracture to her collar bone, the boy suffered minor abrasions to his body, and Bowker suffered a serious head injury which required reconstructive surgery.

However, just two years into his sentence, Chloe’s mum, Michelle Connolly, received a letter from the probation service on Friday 10 January, to say Bowker will soon be allowed visits off site - 12 months before he is due to be released from prison.

She has since been in touch with her local MP and the family of Joseph Brown-Lartey, who was also killed by a dangerous driver on Bury Road just two years before Chloe’s tragic death.

Joseph, 25, died instantly in November 2014 when a car sped through a red light at 80mph in a 30 zone (the junction of Bury Road, Sandy Lane and Roch Valley Way, Rochdale), smashing into Joseph’s Audi and splitting it in two.

Michelle said: “I am so upset, and angry: his sentence was too short for killing my child. Where is her justice?

"I thought we had another 12 months before he was out. We didn’t know he had even applied for this. Because he’s behaved himself in prison, he’s been allowed to apply to be transferred to the open jail in Kirkham – which is where Chloe’s dad lives –  and apply for home leave.

“I’ve spoken with the liaison officer, and all we can do is air our views to his offender manager and prison governor. Chloe hasn’t got a voice, she needs us to do this for her.”

“I’ve also been in touch with the MP involved with the Brake Charity and spoken with Joseph’s mother, who has said they’ll try and help any way they can. If speed cameras had been installed on the road after Joseph died, maybe it would have deterred Bowker from speeding as he’d only had his licence for a few weeks.”

Home leave for an offender first sees them allowed to visit the town where the prison is located, before their family can visit and take them out for a day. Then, they are allowed home for a period of time.

Michelle carried on: “All they can do is inform us of the dates he is to be around, so we can avoid him. We can put restrictions on places that we don’t want him to go to, like the cemetery. He’ll have to use public transport to get around as he’s been disqualified from driving, but Sophie [Michelle’s other daughter] uses it to get to uni. We can’t put a restriction on that.

“Sophie was in that car with Chloe, and has PTSD from it. She’s trying to complete her studies and she doesn’t need this.”

Michelle continued: “He’s just not willing to do his time. He’s not willing to complete his sentence and go quietly. He knows he’s dragging this back up for us because he’s had to apply for this, and knows we will have been told to see if we have any objections.

“He’s had the opportunity to apologise, and he hasn’t. He just shook his head when he had the chance to give his statement in court. I’ve been waiting in hope for him to write to us, but had nothing even though he’s had the opportunity.”

“Chloe loved life and she did so well in her exams. She wanted to be a barrister. Chloe was on her phone in the car when it happened: they played the footage in court and they were all begging for their lives. He hadn’t been drinking, he hadn’t taken drugs: he knew what he was doing.

“He didn’t just kill Chloe that day: he killed a whole family. He took Chloe’s life and she can never be brought back. He wants to be with his family, yet Chloe can’t ever come back to us. We’re serving a life sentence.

“One day he’ll have his own family and children, and I pray to God that nothing like this happens to them, because then he’ll know what it’s like.

She sighed: “There’s just no remorse there for Chloe’s life.”

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