The family of a cyclist who was killed after being hit by a car on New Year's Eve has described the "great void" left in their lives.

Matei Alexandru, 43, died from his injuries after he was hit by the car on Arisdale Avenue at around 7.50pm on December 31.

Ravinder Matharu, of Erriff Drive, was on the phone to his girlfriend while driving his brother’s Peugeot 206 when he crashed with the Romanian national.

Mr Alexandru was sadly pronounced dead at the scene despite the efforts of members of the public and paramedics who provided CPR.

A post mortem was carried out by Dr Benjamin Swift at Basildon Hospital, with the provisional cause of death given as multiple injuries, including severe traumatic spinal injuries.

Matharu was jailed for more than four years earlier today (Monday, August 19).

After the sentencing, Mr Alexandru’s family spoke of his death leaving a “great void” in their lives.

Speaking on behalf of the family, his niece Cristina said: “When we found out about my uncle’s death we were in complete shock and pain. Such pain never goes away, but rather it is something you get used to.

“The death of my uncle has brought pain, confusion, and a lot of stress. Half of the family is living in Germany, and the other half is in Romania.

“No matter how [Matharu] is punished, it will not change things for us.

“But I hope it will make a difference for him as a person – that he will repent and he will understand what he did. Life is not a joke or a game, let alone careless driving.”

Following the crash, Matharu, 32, fled the scene despite the serious damage to his car, including to the windscreen and one of the headlights.

He did not report the incident to the police or to the ambulance service.

He was arrested at a house in Purfleet later that afternoon.

Matharu admitted causing death by dangerous driving, failing to stop at the scene of a collision, failing to report a collision, driving whilst disqualified and aggravated taking without consent at Basildon Crown Court earlier this year.

He was sentenced to four years and one month in prison at the same court today and was also disqualified from driving for a further seven years.

Matharu has to take an extended test if he ever wishes to drive again.

Senior investigating officer, Insp Rob Brettell of the Serious Collision Investigation Unit, said: “My deepest sympathies go out to Mr Alexandru’s family at this incredibly difficult time. They’ve shown a real bravery throughout this process.

“To lose a loved one is unimaginably difficult, but I can’t begin to imagine how tough it’s been for them when they’re more than one thousand miles away.

“I’m glad that Matharu had the decency to plead guilty to ensure that they didn’t have to go through a trial, but that doesn’t excuse his appalling crime. Not only did he get behind the wheel of a stolen car knowing that he was disqualified from driving, but he showed the utmost cowardice in his actions after hitting Mr Alexandru.

“By using a mobile phone at the time of the incident, Matharu was so distracted that he was not fully conscious of his surroundings, and it ended in Mr Alexandru’s life being taken.

“Distractions on the roads can be a killer, and I would urge anyone behind the wheel of a vehicle to have their full attention on the road at all times.

“I hope that Matharu’s time in prison gives him a chance to reflect on the consequences of his actions. The lives of Mr Alexandru’s family will never be the same again – and he only has himself to blame.”