‘I thought he was dead’ – Horrific moment van driver drags pensioner along road after ploughing into his wife

Shocking CCTV footage shows the moment that a callous delivery driver stole a woman’s handbag before speeding off in his van… despite the victim’s 80-year-old husband holding onto the passenger door.

Frank Stewart was dragged down Higher Market Street, in Farnworth, while wife Maria, 60, was knocked to the ground by the vehicle. Van driver Anthony Davies, 38, later took his hi-vis jacket off and returned to the scene to return Mrs Stewart’s handbag and to give police a false alibi.

More than three years after the crime, Davies was jailed for two years after pleading guilty to two counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, dangerous driving, and theft at Bolton Crown Court.

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Prosecution barrister Andrew Mackintosh told the court that Mr and Mrs Stewart had been out in Farnworth town center on the evening of March 17 2019 – St Patrick’s Day. At around 1am the following morning, Davies snatched Mrs Stewart’s handbag as they walked past him on Black Horse Street.

Frank Stewart lay motionless in the road after falling from the van

He ran to his van which was parked up on Higher Market Street and got in the driver’s side. Mr Stewart opened the passenger door and asked for the bag but Davies said he’d “thrown it out” and drove off with Mr Stewart still holding onto the open door.

Mrs Stewart lost her balance as the van sped off and landed face down on the pavement, while Mr Stewart was dragged along the road for 20 yards before eventually being thrown off. CCTV footage played in court showed him lay motionless on the floor for a few moments afterwards.

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Police were called to the scene by a taxi driver who witnessed the incident. Davies returned to the scene a short time later, after taking his hi-vis jacket off him, and returned the handbag to Mrs Stewart.

Davies, of Cravenwood Rise, Westhoughton, told her that he had picked it up near Home Bargains after seeing it thrown out of the window of a van. Mrs Stewart’s glasses, a pouch of tobacco, and and a cigarette case were missing.

Police arrested Davies on May 22 2019 after discovering clothes matching the CCTV and a holdall containing £20,000 worth of heroin in his home. He told officers that he was drinking in the Church Hotel at the time of the incident but admitted to possession of class A drugs with intent to supply, for which he was jailed for 32 months.

Due to the detail of his alibi, police spent almost two years carrying out inquiries in relation to the incident that left Mr and Mrs Stewart injured. After being charged in January 2021, Davies appeared in court in May of that year but still maintained that it was a case of mistaken identity until he finally admitted it in March 2022.

Speaking about the impact the incident had on him, Mr Stewart said that he now uses a walking stick and had to buy a mobility scooter, which cost him £2,000. In a victim impact statement, he added: “I used to go out alone but it’s destroyed my confidence.

Shocking CCTV footage shows van driver speeding off and dragging 80-year-old down road
Shocking CCTV footage shows van driver speeding off and dragging 80-year-old down road

“It makes me feel sad and I feel like something has been taken away from my life. I’m no longer independent.”

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In her own statement, Mrs Stewart said: “I can’t explain the panic I felt seeing Frank just lying there unconscious and not moving. I thought he was dead.

“I remember screaming out as I sat on the pavement. That image of Frank will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

Mrs Stewart added that she no longer feels safe going out at night and gets anxious when she sees a white van. She continued: “Our relationship has changed – he has become very impatient and we argue a lot more than we used to. I find this very upsetting.”

Defending Davies, who has eight convictions for 14 offences, Kevin Liston said: “He has taken positive steps to address his problems and live a more productive lifestyle.” I have added that Davies feels shame, embarrassment and remorse.

The Honorary Recorder of Bolton Judge Martin Walsh jailed Davies for two years. Davies was also banned from driving for four years and will have to take an extended re-test.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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