Crime

A British tourist died in a violent South Beach crash. His family confronted the killer

Prison for man who killed British tourist in car crash

Frank Strachan agreed to spend 10 years in prison and pleaded guilty Wednesday to a hit-and-run crash. He had killed Andrew Hamilton, a British tourist visiting South Beach, on Oct. 13, 2015.
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Frank Strachan agreed to spend 10 years in prison and pleaded guilty Wednesday to a hit-and-run crash. He had killed Andrew Hamilton, a British tourist visiting South Beach, on Oct. 13, 2015.

A British tourist visiting South Beach for the first time, Andrew Hamilton died when a BMW convertible plowed into him at a jaw-dropping 90 mph as he crossed Collins Avenue.

Adding to his family’s anguish — Hamilton wasn’t even supposed to be on the trip. A group of friends asked him to go at the last minute, after one pal dropped out of the package vacation deal.

“If he hadn’t done that act of kindness, he would still be here with us,” his father, John Hamilton, said in Miami-Dade criminal court Wednesday.

Hamilton, the last-minute tourist, died on Oct. 13, 2015. Three years later, the man behind the wheel of the BMW pleaded guilty Wednesday to a hit-and-run crash that was captured on a gruesome surveillance video that launched a nine-month manhunt.

Frank Strachan, 26, agreed to spend 10 years in prison and pleaded guilty to charges including leaving the scene of a fatal accident and vehicular homicide. He faced over 60 years in prison had he been convicted at trial.

Prosecutors said that Strachan, driving a silver 2012 BMW 650i convertible, zoomed out of the Royal Palm Hotel parking garage at 1545 Collins Ave just past 2:30 a.m. A nearby Miami Beach police officer spotted him and made a U-turn to try and pull him over.

Strachan kept driving, weaving in and out of traffic — then slamming into Hamilton as he crossed Collins at 11th Street. The crash dismembered Hamilton and launched his body approximately 230 feet.

A tourist from New York, Strachan ditched the car and ran off, police said. Video surveillance from the Tudor Hotel at 11th and Collins caught the collision, and video surveillance cameras at the Royal Palm captured Strachan returning to his hotel room and leaving the hotel.

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Frank Strachan pleads guilty to the hit-and-run death of British tourist Andrew Hamilton during sentencing at the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. At right is defense attorney Jonathan Jordan. AL DIAZ adiaz@miamiherald.com

Both the car and the hotel room were rented in his name. He fled to Georgia, and was finally captured the following summer. When Strachan was nabbed, he admitted everything to Miami Beach police.

“He did give a confession because the images are burned in his head and haven’t left him,” defense lawyer Andrew Rier said.

Hamilton, 27, was raised with two sisters from the small town of Saltney, just outside Liverpool. He worked processing insurance claims, and was hoping to pursue a career in human resources, family and friends said in court documents. He loved fitness and jokes, and had a penchant for making the older women at the gym burst into laughter.

He and his boyfriend, Andrew McMahon, shared the same name. McMahon playfully called him “Little Andrew.”

“He had so much to live for, and so much left to do, and so he put me on hold to travel and live his dreams,” McMahon said in a letter read to the court. “I remember one night in bed, holding his head on my chest as I played with his hair, when he said, ‘We have all the time in the world.’”

“We didn’t. Because on Oct. 13, 2015, my life changed forever, my world fell apart, and I was left with a broken heart. “

Hamilton also left behind six nieces and nephews, including 8-year-old Phoenix Hamilton.

“Phoenix asks me every single day, ‘Why did that man hurt Andrew? Why couldn’t he go to hospital and the doctors make him better?” his sister, Sarah Hamilton, wrote in a letter read aloud. “’Why can’t we see him? Why can’t we play with him?’”

In court, tears welled, including for veteran prosecutor Justin Funck. “Not a dry eye in the courtroom,” Funck later said.

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British tourist Andrew Hamilton was killed by a hit-and-run driver on South Beach in 2015. AL DIAZ adiaz@miamiherald.com

Hamilton’s mother and father flew in for the hearing from England.

John Hamilton inhaled deeply, his eyes red, his hands shaking slightly as he walked to the podium to address Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Marisa Tinkler Mendez. Andrew Hamilton said the family, at first, felt only “anger, hatred and pain.”

“Why? Why?” John Hamilton said, turning to the defendant just feet away. “Strachan has not shown any remorse for killing our son. Why?”

In a jail jumpsuit and in shackles, Strachan kept his head down, nervously rubbing his hands. He asked to apologize to the family. John Hamilton refused to listen, walking out of the courtroom.

“I’m sorry,” Strachan stammered. “It was a big accident. It wasn’t intentional. Nothing that I can say that .... I just want to say I’m sorry.”

His voice trailed off.

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