An unlicensed motorist was pulled over by police for hoon driving the night before he crashed into a power pole in Castlemaine and killed a passenger, a court has heard.
Michael Garry Suckling was behind the wheel of the car that crashed at the corner of Forest and Urquhart streets on the afternoon of January 6, 2018, killing local man Kenneth Butler.
Suckling, 41, pleaded guilty in the County Court on Tuesday to culpable driving causing death, failing to stop and render assistance at the scene of a crash, negligently causing serious injury, conduct endangering life and unlicensed driving.
Two other passengers in the car the day of the crash were injured, and one was airlifted to The Alfred hospital in Melbourne.
The court heard the crash occurred when Suckling, driving a Holden Commodore Berlina, overtook three vehicles at speed on a bend, crossing over double lines.
As he moved back onto the correct side of the road, the vehicle began to yaw sideways and slid into a power pole.
An expert later determined the car was travelling at least 89 km/h in the 60 km/h zone at the point where the tyre marks on the road began, and hit the pole at a speed of 55 km/h.
Brakes were applied two seconds before the crash.
Mr Butler was seated on the rear driver's side, which bore the brunt of the impact.
A witness saw Suckling get out of the vehicle with a backpack and jacket, and begin to walk away along Forest Street.
The witness encouraged him to stay at the scene, but Suckling continued walking and was heard saying, "I'm f**ked now, I'm f**ked now".
The witness followed Suckling to a nearby bottle shop, then returned to the scene and told police where he was.
Suckling was arrested and later taken to hospital for a blood test.
A preliminary breath test gave a blood alcohol concentration of 0.037, but analysis of the blood sample returned a result of 0.132.
Suckling was also found to have diazepam (sold commercially as Valium), sertraline (an antidepressant), nordiazepam (a metabolite of diazepam), methadone and cannabis in his system.
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Earlier that day, Crown prosecutor Raymond Gibson said, Suckling did burnouts in the railway station car park, and was seen to "behave in an erratic manner" in a local pub.
An acquaintance who got a lift from the pub told police Suckling began doing burnouts and was yelling out to people while they drove to a bottle shop.
"I would describe his driving as hoon driving," the man said.
He said he later got out of the car and told Suckling he did not want to be around when he "crashed and killed someone".
That afternoon, at the home of one of the surviving passengers, Suckling was seen to be eating Valium from the packet and appeared to "be on something", one witness said.
He later became agitated and began smashing up the house, breaking a window which cut one of the other men's legs.
It was then decided to drive this man to hospital and on the way, they picked up Mr Butler, who was walking into town from the house they had all been at.
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Motorists who passed the car that day described Suckling's driving as erratic, fast, and on the verge of losing control.
The court heard the two surviving passengers yelled at Suckling to slow down as he approached the bend where Duke Street merges into Forest Street.
It was here he overtook the three vehicles, forcing an oncoming motorist to swerve out of the way.
Witnesses saw the car slide sideways and hit the pole.
The night before, the court heard, Suckling was pulled over by police for hoon driving and gave a preliminary breath test reading of 0.082, later corrected to 0.091, but refused to accompany officers for another test.
The two surviving passengers and Mr Butler's partner gave victim impact statements and that of the man who was airlifted to hospital was read to the court.
He described watching Mr Butler die that day, "watching his soul leave his body".
"This has messed with my head and still does," he said.
His statement spoke of the ongoing physical pain he continued to endure, as well as the anxiety he now suffered.
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Defence counsel for Suckling, Simon Kenny, said the time his client had spent in custody had been difficult for him.
Suckling had since been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, he said, and attempted to take his own life.
The court heard a forensic physician said it was difficult to reconcile Suckling's erratic behaviour that day with the drugs in his system, and Mr Kenny submitted his behaviour could not be explained by his drug use.
Judge Michael Bourke asked about remorse, noting that Suckling did not seem to exhibit "genuine and insightful" remorse until more recent times.
Mr Kenny referred to what his client had told a neuropsychologist, that he felt sick inside and had flashbacks to the crash.
He also submitted that Suckling's guilty plea - which came after a committal hearing - was made early and had significant benefit.
"The gravity of these proceedings is not lost on Mr Suckling," Mr Kenny said, adding his client was taking responsibility for the death and injury he had caused.
Mr Kenny also argued that the forensic physician's opinion that Suckling possibly had a blood alcohol content of less than 0.037 was the proper reference to consider.
Suckling has served 868 days in custody, not including the two months he served for the offending the night before the crash.
Judge Bourke will sentence Suckling at a later date.
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