THE woman guilty of the hit-and-run killing of her mother’s best friend failed to tell anyone about the crime in the hours afterwards.
Taylah Hocking, 20, struck and killed former Wodonga woman Tracey-Lee Kemp, 45, on the Midland Highway in Huntly in August last year.
Tracey-Lee, a former St Augustine’s Primary and Wodonga High student, was born and raised on the Border, but moved to Bendigo before her death.
Hocking and Ms Kemp both attended a 21st birthday party at the Huntly Pub earlier in the evening, with Hocking driving her mother, grandmother, grandfather and Ms Kemp to the pub. She was intended to be the designated driver.
I didn’t do it, if I had hit someone I wouldn’t just drive off.Taylah Hocking in her police interview on August 14
Hocking later admitted to police she had “a few” glasses of alcohol. She was on her P-plates, and had gotten her driver’s licence three months before.
The court heard Ms Kemp was involved in an argument with another person at the party and decided to walk home along the Midland Highway.
The party ended soon after and Hocking got into her gold Holden sedan. Her brother, who was celebrating his 21st birthday, saw her drive away by herself without speaking to anyone.
The court heard Ms Kemp’s boyfriend called her at 12.21am to ask where she was, and offered to pick her up.
He called again at 12.43am and spoke briefly before he heard the phone case “closing over”, and then no sound. All further calls went to message bank.
Hocking texted her ex-boyfriend at 12.38am and 12.41am. She received texts at 12.42am and 12.43am.
The court examined the time of the texts, and found she was unlikely to have texted while driving. Her last message was sent a minute before she left the pub.
Hocking veered onto the left shoulder of the road and struck and killed Ms Kemp, and continued driving south on the road without stopping.
Hocking then turned at Howard Street at Epsom and deliberately crashed into a tree before calling her mother. She was picked up by another person and taken to another house to “sober up”.
Hocking did not mention the hit-and-run to her family or friends that night.
Meanwhile, after closing the pub later in the night, the publican saw a handbag on the side of the road when he was driving home on the Midland Highway about 3am.
He saw more belongings strewn on the side of the road 10 metres away. He then saw Ms Kemp laying face-down on the side of the road, unresponsive.
She was found 1.46 kilometres from the hotel.
Hocking “found out” that Ms Kemp was dead at 5.30am, when her mother called.
She was taken to Bendigo Police Station at 10am on August 14 for questioning, where she denied killing Ms Kemp.
“I didn’t do it, I’d remember. You can’t not remember something like that,” she told police.
“I didn’t do it, if I had hit someone I wouldn’t just drive off.”
When asked about the staged collision with the tree, Hocking made up another story.
“I don’t know, like I went to change the radio station and it all just happened really quickly,” she said.
Police asked about her alcohol consumption, and Hocking said “yeah, I had a few”.
A reconstruction found she hit the tree at low speed and there were no emergency braking marks on the road. It also found the damage to the car was consistent with striking a pedestrian.
The court was told Hocking had a close relationship with Ms Kemp, and considered her like a “second mother”. The pair had been friends since Hocking was a young child.
Defence counsel Ian Hayden said visibility was likely to be low in the area at the time, and the Midland Highway was poorly lit.
He said the crime had devastated Hocking who has not driven a car since.
“She has been described as like a second mother to her. The accused is forever mortified about what has happened on this night,” Mr Hayden said.
The court heard Hocking lost her job after her employer was targeted on social media for continuing to give her shifts.
Judge Bill Stuart said there was “a certain callousness” to Hocking’s actions on the night when she “just continued on her way” after the collision.
“For all she knew, the person could have been alive. She didn’t do anything. Her thoughts were for herself,” he said.
“Common humanity would have demanded that she stop, she call somebody, got somebody to do something to find out whether the person was alive.
“If so, if they would have been in dire need or needed immediate medical attention, what does she do? Not a thing, other than fake an accident to protect herself, then be consoled by friends over a period of a few hours while she sobers up and says nothing.”
Judge Stuart said he was likely to sentence Hocking to a period in a juvenile detention facility, believing a community corrections order was not enough for the crime. She has not served any time in custody.
A victim impact statement from Ms Kemp’s boyfriend Slavko Milovanovic was read to the court, outlining his devastation at not being able to say “goodbye”.
“My life changed dramatically when I was woken by a knock on the door by police, thinking it was Tracey having locked herself out,” he wrote.
“It was the police, they told me she had been killed.
“I can’t shake this, it torments me.
“How could anyone leave anyone hurt like that and not stop? I am left in despair, it was just so wrong, my life as I knew it is over.”
Judge Stuart will state his sentencing intention on Friday, waiting on the outcome of a report before sentencing Hocking next month.