A hit and run driver has been jailed for wrecking the career of a top female surfer who he mowed down in Braunton.

Gary Scholes, 36, was rushing home from a pub on a Friday night and had already had a series of near misses before he hit 26-year-old Karma Worthington on the pelican crossing outside SQ in Exeter Road at 9.20pm.

Karma was a former British junior surfer who worked as an instructor and was about to go on a watersports holiday in Sri Lanka when she suffered serious injuries to her pelvis and right arm.

Speaking after the hearing today (Tuesday) investigating officer PC Rod Lomas said it was the worst piece of driving over a prolonged period he had ever seen.

Carpenter Scholes was seen on CCTV driving his silver van at speeds up to 51mph in 30mph limits moments before the accident on the crossing.

Before the collision he had already overtaken on off duty policeman by driving through two red lights, gone the wrong way round a roundabout and two traffic islands, and had a series of near misses before the accident.

Karma was thrown about 30 feet ‘like a rag doll’ by the impact with the van, which cracked the windscreen.

After the case she said: “I have only just managed to get on a board again a couple of weeks ago but it is not the same.

“I don’t have the same strength or fitness or the mobility in my left arm. I just hope to put this behind me and get on with my life and recover.”

Before the collision on October 24, Scholes had been drinking with workmates and left Bideford for Ilfracombe at around 9pm.

He did not stop his Transit after hitting Karma and sped off, narrowly missing a bus as he overtook on a blind corner in his rush to get away.

Police found his Transit outside the house where he was staying at The Lees, Ilfracombe, but he was not at home and did not contact the police until the next day, by which time it was too late to breathalyse him.

Scholes, of Albert Road, Farnworth, Bolton, admitted causing serious injury by dangerous driving and failing to stop or report an accident.

He was jailed for two years and four months and banned from driving for three years after his release by Judge David Evans at Exeter Crown Court, who also forfeited his van.

The judge told him: “You simply were driving too fast, too dangerously, and you simply did not pay attention.”

Paul Grumbar, defending, said Scholes had only one drink after finishing work and drove off after the collision because he panicked.

He said he is genuinely remorseful and has written a letter of apology.

After the hearing, PC Lomas said: “It is only with the help of the public that we were able to show the full extent of appalling Scholes driving and I would like to thank the witnesses for coming forward and their assistance as we, the police, simply cannot function without the help of the public.

“Not only was the driving displayed by Scholes simply awful, the fact that he fled the scene and went to ground for 18 hours compounds the issue, and that was duly reflected in his sentence.

“This case demonstrates again that we will do all we can to bring those driving in this way to justice.”