Man from Acton Jailed for Mowing Down Dogwalker

Family of Olivia Riley says Lazlo Dancs should spend rest of his life repenting

Laszlo Dancs (left) and Olivia Riley with some of her dogs (right)
Laszlo Dancs (left) and Olivia Riley with some of her dogs (right)

July 28, 2023

A 28-year-old man from Acton has been jailed for six years and eight months for killing a woman with his car when he was high on a cocktail of drink and drugs.

Laszlo Dancs of Heathfield Road was sentenced at the Old Bailey after previously pleading guilty in May to causing the death of Olivia Helen Riley by dangerous driving, drink driving, drug driving and failing to provide a breath sample. He was also disqualified from driving for five years.

On 14 May 2002 Ms Riley, who lived in Suffolk, was walking her dogs on Cheyne Walk in Chelsea early in the morning when she was hit by the Audi TT being driven by Dancs. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

She was the stepdaughter of best-selling author Lucinda Riley for whom she had worked as a literary assistant. He stepmother had died the previous year and her family say she was still mourning her loss.

Olivia’s three dogs - two Labradors called Lily and Maia and a Golden Retriever puppy called Darcy - were also killed in the collision.

Dancs was arrested on the spot but refused to give a breath test when asked. Subsequent tests revealed that he had benzoylecgonine in his system which could be indicative of recent cocaine use. A blood sample was also said to have a reading of 137 milligrams of alcohol compared to the legal limit of 80 milligrams.

He was taken into custody and charged on 14 November 2022.

Detective Sergeant Dale Luke of the Met’s Roads and Transport Policing Command said, “Olivia Riley’s life was cut short by the reckless actions of Laszlo Dancs. Were it not for his actions she would still be enjoying walks with her beloved dogs today.

“My thoughts are very much with Olivia’s family today as this long legal process comes to a close - it is my heartfelt hope that they may find a measure of closure and are able to remember Olivia in happier times, before this terrible incident took her from them.”

Olivia Riley and two of the family's dogs. Picture: Met Police

A spokesperson for Olivia Riley’s family said, “On behalf of our family and those loved by Olivia, we are grateful to the team of prosecutors, Met Police Road Death Investigation team and all those who attended the unimaginable scene of Olivia’s death and have supported us so well through the maze of the English justice system, through to today’s sentence of Lazlo Dancs, 440 days after Olivia’s light was extinguished from all our lives.

“No sentence can restore that light or the mental health of all of us who will mourn her loss for the rest of our lives. We could only hope that the sentence passed would be appropriate and relevant to the circumstances of Olivia’s sudden death.

“I find it impossible to reconcile that a person who chooses to drive with a lethal cocktail of illegal drugs and alcohol at 6.15 on a Saturday morning has not intentionally decided to endanger the lives of innocent people and their loved ones.

“Today’s sentence should reflect Mr Dancs’ abdication of responsibility for the lethal consequences of his actions.

“This is insignificant compared with the final tragedy of justice, that Mr Dancs should have escaped the current tariff of life imprisonment for causing death by dangerous driving because he ended Olivia’s life six weeks before this relevant and appropriate sentence was introduced to law.

“We hope and pray that Mr Dancs will dedicate the rest of his life to personal repentance and preventing others from following his life destroying choices.

“Our family would like to share this beautiful poem penned by her sister Leonora Riley, that sustains the essence that was Olivia.”

Olivia by Leonora Riley

A light that always shone so brightly, shall not be dimmed.
Darkness yields no control over her tenderness, engulfing her loved ones with boundless elation
A strength that survived cruelty and resentment shall not be weakened.
Her scars turn to shards of blinding light, illuminating the world on her shoulders
A joy that raised spirits in all that met her, will be forever cherished, radiating through cloaks of aversion, attempting to break her impenetrable spirit
A grace that has mesmerised many, shall not be washed away, surviving even the roughest of seas, bubbling into flickers of luminescence on the shores of Suffolk.
A deep, unconditional love that has changed us eternally, shall never see an end, blessing us from the confines of precious memory, Olivia’s radiance unbroken by the setting of the sun.

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