'Selfish coward' lied about brain injuries after killing Leeds cheerleading coach John Harkins in horror crash

A DRIVER who killed a cyclist in a horror crash and then lied about suffering from brain injuries in a bid to evade justice was branded a “selfish coward” as he was sent to prison.

By Tony Gardner
Saturday, 2nd February 2019, 10:05 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 5:04 pm
John Harkins

Mohammed Munir “engaged in a charade of being mentally incapacitated” in the months following the collision that killed John Harkins.

Mr Harkins – a popular cheerleading coach – was killed instantly after being struck head-on as Munir drove at double the speed limit on the wrong side of Kirkstall Road in Leeds while he tried to overtake his cousin’s car.

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A vigil was held for John Harkins at his local gym shortly after his tragic death

After the collision, Munir pretended to police and doctors that he did not know what day it was and was unable to understand simple words to avoid being interviewed.

He then went on to buy a new Audi three months after the fatal crash and continued driving.

Despite the 25-year-old’s claims to be mentally incapacitated, police managed to obtain CCTV footage of him shopping at Ikea.

Footage showed him using a scanner at the store and checking his bill.

Mr Harkins a popular cheerleading coach was killed instantly after being struck head-on as Munir drove at double the speed limit on the wrong side of Kirkstall Road

Munir, of Argie Avenue, Burley, was jailed for six years, nine months, after being found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving and perverting the course of justice.

Judge Rodney Jameson QC told him: “You simply decided to lie repeatedly to frustrate the investigation into your criminality.

"I am entirely satisfied that you knew you were guilty of causing the death of John Harkins by dangerous driving.

“Your behaviour throughout the investigation has been selfish, cowardly and dishonest.”

“You could not have cared less, your actions were motivated by pure selfishness.”

Munir also expressed contempt for members of Mr Harkins’ distraught relatives, who sat in the public gallery throughout the trial

Jurors were told by the judge at the end of the case how Munir had said to a custody officer: “Why can’t they just get over it?”

Judge Jameson praised Mr Harkins’ family members for the quiet dignity and courage they had shown during the case.

He said their ordeal had been made worse by the “disgusting discourtesy” they had been shown by those who had come to court to support Munir.

The jury heard how Mr Harkins, of Woodside Place, Burley, had been cycling home from training a university cheerleading squad when he was knocked down on November 14, 2016 at around 11pm.

The judge said Mr Mr Harkins' was "blameless" for the collision.

Munir went round keep-left bollards into the opposite carriageway before hitting the 33-year-old. The vehicle overturned, crushing the cyclist, and demolished the front of two businesses.

Prosecutor Jonathan Sharp read out a victim statement on behalf of Mr Harkins’ mum, Karen, which said: “There is a hole in my heart, a hole in my family and a hole in the world that nothing and no one can fill.

“I will never know the wife he could have had or the grandchildren that could have been mine.

“I just want justice. There is not a lot that can be said. That bloke has done it.

“It is not going to bring John back. He will see his family, but we will never see John again.”

Mr Harkins’ sister read out her statement to the court.

She said: “It is not fair. I’m broken, I’m lost, I’m tired, I’m angry and most of all I miss the man I used to call my brother.

“All I want is to hold him one more time, but that has been taken away from me.”

Mr Harkins, who was known as ‘Tats’ because of his tattoos, was a founder and coach at the cheerleading programme Aviator Cheer, based in Leeds.

Hundreds of people paid tribute to him at a candle-lit vigil following his death.

Ann Drury, Senior Investigating Officer in the case, said: “Munir undertook a lengthy charade to frustrate the investigation to try and avoid facing the consequences of his actions.

“I hope that today’s guilty verdict and sentence brings some sort of closure to Mr Harkins family, who have shown great dignity throughout the investigation and court proceedings.