Hit-run accused faces court for crash which left Ballarat cyclist fighting for his life

The woman who hit Ballarat cyclist Christian Ashby and left him lying bloody in the middle of the road was on her way to get money for drugs, a court has heard. 

Rebekah Emily Stewart, 24, collided head-on with Mr Ashby, propelling him in the air and leaving him with life threatening injuries in the middle of Wendouree Parade last Good Friday.

An emotional Mr Ashby spoke to County Court judge Michael McInerney for 45 minutes during the former Ballarat women's plea hearing on Wednesday, detailing to the court how the "horrendous" incident had impacted on his life.

Describing the incident as a “callous act”, he said he still can’t comprehend how another human could do what was done to him.

“This nightmare changed my life dramatically,” he told the court.

“Everyday I am reminded this day occurred.”

The horrific near-fatal hit-run that left the 36-year-old father of two fighting for his life has left him in constant pain.

It took Mr Ashby more than 30 minutes to list each injury he suffered, some of which included punctures to both lungs, nine fractured ribs, crushed bones in his hand, a damaged kidney and a brain injury.

Since the incident Mr Ashby has endured 12 operations, with the scars a constant reminder of the life-changing ordeal.

The podiatrist and keen triathlon athlete showed his deformed hand to the court and said he would now have to learn to live with a limp.

“I will never be able to run or jog again. I used to run 90-100km a week … I’ve had my (ability to run) taken away from me,” Mr Ashby said.

But he told the court the most difficult thing he has to come to terms with was the limitation placed on him with his children.

“I cannot throw them in the pool like any other father,” he said.

Christian Ashby.

Christian Ashby.

“Every parent wants to give their children everything. I feel like I’ve failed my kids due to no fault of my own.”

He also told the court it hurt that he was now known as the man who was hit around the lake, rather than Christian Ashby.

Saddened by the thought of how close he came to death, Mr Ashby said knowing he is still alive was the only thought that gets him through the tough times.

The court also heard from his wife, Karen, who said she would never recover from the day she received the phone call that changed their lives forever.

“You do not get used to your husband almost dying,” she said.

“The crime committed by one person has robbed him of a happy life.”

Mrs Ashby said she still had nightmares of her husband laying in the hospital bed.

“To think another human could do this has rocked me to my core,” she said.

The court heard Stewart was travelling on the wrong side of the road when she hit Mr Ashby as he cycled around Lake Wendouree in the early hours of March 25.

While investigations could not determine what speed she was travelling, the force of the crash crushed the bicycle and threw Ashby in the air.

Ashby was propelled over his handlebars, he then hit the bonnet, windscreen and roof of Stewart’s Mitsubishi Lancer before he was sent tumbling in the air and landed on the road.

Stewart braked briefly and fled the scene, dumping the smashed-up car in a paddock off Paddys Road in Delacombe.

The court heard Stewart went to a friends house in Weabra Court where she told them she hit a kangaroo and needed help moving the car and getting blood off her.

A number of people then helped Stewart move and cover up the car with a tarp and blankets.

Stewart avoided police for a number of days and was later arrested in Altona North.

Her offending breached a suspended jail sentence she was serving after pleading guilty in 2015 to driving while suspended.

Stewart's lawyer, Philip Dunn QC, said his client "deeply regrets what she did".

"The Rebekah Stewart of March 2016 is a different Rebekah Stewart of now," he said.

He detailed to the court the downward spiral his client had taken after the separation of her parents when she was a teenager.

By the age of 17, Mr Dunn said Stewart had left school, was couch surfing and had begun taking the drug ice.

He told the court she had smoked ice the night before the accident, and was on her way to borrow money to buy more drugs when she hit Mr Ashby.

Mr Dunn said Stewart understood she was going to jail, but he urged the court to take into account his client's remorse and attempt to rehabilitate herself.

He said Stewart had written a letter of apology to Mr Ashby and taken part in a rehabilitation program while on bail.

He called evidence from the manager of the rehabilitation program who told the court Stewart had worked hard during the program and expressed to him she was motivated to change.

Mr Dunn said Stewart embraced the rehabilitation program, did not test positive for drugs or reoffend while she was on bail waiting for the matter to come to court.

Stewart's sister Jessica also explained how her sister told her when she was originally remanded "her life was out of control" and that this was "not who she wants to be".

Mr Dunn urged the judge to take into account Stewart's remorse, youth and ability to turn her life around since the accident when determining how long to sentence his client to imprisonment.

"If someone can get away from drugs, turn their life around, then everyone in the community is a winner," he said.

Although the comment was met with disgust from a number of Ashby’s family members in court.

Crown prosecutor Pat Burke said the fact Stewart was taking ice, was serving a suspended sentence and was a disqualified driver also needed to be weighed up when determining an appropriate sentence.

Stewart was bailed and is expected to return to court for sentencing on Monday.