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Driver caught speeding twice after killing cyclist

By Deborah McAleese

The man who killed top Irish road racing cyclist David McCall by dangerous driving was caught speeding on another two occasions after he caused the fatal accident, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

Businessman Michael Croome (27) was yesterday jailed for five years for causing Mr McCall’s death by knocking him off his bike during a cycle race as he rushed to catch a flight at Belfast International Airport.

Antrim Crown Court was told that before the 2008 crash Croome had been convicted twice for speeding and once for careless driving and that following the accident he was convicted on two further occasions for speeding.

Judge Norman Lockie said that he felt that Croome had not |shown any remorse or empathy for his victim’s family during the case.

Mr McCall (46), a Commonwealth Games medallist who had represented Northern Ireland at major international competitions for years, was racing with a group of cyclists along the Belfast Road at Nutts Corner on August 12 2008, when he was struck by Croome, who was driving too fast and too close to the cyclists.

His bicycle was broken in two and he was thrown into the air.

While the site of the actual impact is unknown, a forensic expert estimated that he could have been thrown anywhere from almost 60m to 90m after bouncing off the car’s windscreen.

Croome, who was rushing to catch a flight at Belfast International Airport, initially did not stop, but returned a short time later to the scene of the crash.

Mr McCall’s tragic death sent shockwaves through the international cycling community and tributes were paid to him from fellow sportsmen across the world.

Croome, a former call centre worker, is from Prior Wharf, Chester, but had an address on Belfast’s Cliftonville Road at the time of the crash.

The father-of-one denied causing Mr McCall’s death by dangerous driving but was convicted last month by a jury.

Yesterday, Judge Lockie told the court that a probation report showed that Croome does not accept the verdict of the jury and continues to deny his guilt.

He said that Croome also “showed an absence of emotion and empathy” during the course of the trial.

Judge Lockie added that on the evening of the accident Croome drove in an “aggressive” manner to reach Belfast International Airport for a flight to Liverpool.

“He performed a risky overtaking manoeuvre. The defendant then decided to accelerate to pass the cyclists when he could have maintained his speed.

“He had no need to increase his speed.

“The defendant applied an overtaking position too close to the line of the cyclists,” Judge Lockie said.

He added: “There is no dispute that the defendant continued |to drive 500 yards before he stopped.

“He then got out and inspected the damage to his car before driving back to the scene of the impact.

“I have been left with the feeling that for a good part of this 500 yards he deliberately drove on before deciding to stop.”

The Judge said that Croome’s behaviour at the scene of the accident “angered” some people and that he made “inappropriate and insensitive comments about his flight to people already shocked by what had happened”.

“Mr McCall was a highly respected and accomplished cyclist. I have read moving tributes from family members who clearly adore him,” Judge Lockie added.

Croome’s defence barrister, Patrick Lyttle QC, said that he knows the accident has had a “devastating and catastrophic effect” on Mr McCall’s family.

He added that on behalf of the defence and Croome he would like to express his “regret and remorse”.

“One cannot read the victim impact statements in this case without being moved,” he said.

Mr Lyttle added that Croome has suffered from depression since the accident.

“He hasn’t sailed on merrily and oblivious to the result of this accident,” he said.

“It has affected him as well, but obviously not as much as (Mr McCall’s) family.

“He has no relatives or family in Northern Ireland so his prison sentence will be all the more difficult because he will have limited contact with his family,” he added.

Croome was also banned from driving for five years.

Life has been hell without David, says his grieving partner

Life has been “hell” for heartbroken Helen Stewart following the death of her partner David McCall.

The emotion of finally seeing the dangerous driver who killed him being jailed for five years was too much for the Lisburn woman who began to weep as the judge passed his sentence.

“It is a longer sentence than I had expected him to get but nothing will bring David back. I do feel that justice has been done, but I will never see David again,” Helen told the Belfast Telegraph.

“I can’t really say I am pleased because nothing will bring David back but I suppose it is a good result.

“It is very hard to know if anything is going to help me come to terms with this and with David not being around.

“If he (Croome) had not been found guilty or did not get a decent sentence it would have been much worse,” she added.

Judge Brendan Lockie yesterday told the court that he did not think that Croome had shown any remorse for his crime.

“I am glad the judge picked up on the lack of remorse,” said Helen.

“Croome has never approached me or the police or any members of the McCall family as far as I know to make any sort of apology.

“I am glad that was recognised in court.

“Life has just been hell without David. It is impossible to explain what it is like to anyone who has not gone through this. It is just hell.”

A smartly dressed Croome arrived at Antrim courthouse early yesterday morning with a suitcase, anticipating a custodial sentence.

He looked withdrawn and worried — in stark contrast to the man who strolled smiling into court last month to await the jury’s verdict.

He walked into the dock with his head bent and sat motionless with his elbows on his knees as he waited for the judge to enter the courtroom to deliver his sentence.

His mother, who had travelled from England with his sister and young daughter for the sentencing, looked anxiously towards him and gave him a reassuring smile.

He appeared to tremble slightly when asked by the judge to stand.

He then nodded his head when he was told he was sentenced to five years in prison.

Mr McCall’s mother and father began to weep when the sentence was passed and they walked sobbing, hand in hand, from the courthouse.

The couple said they were too upset to talk about the case.

Croome’s mother sat with her head bowed and as he was being led from the dock by prison guards he whistled to get her attention.

He smiled at her and mouthed the words : “It’s okay”.

Outside the courtroom his mother and sister hugged and broke into tears, as Mr McCall’s grieving family walked past also sobbing.

Victim won medal at Commonwealth Games

David McCall was one of Northern Ireland’s best known competitive cyclists when he was killed.

The 46-year-old Lisburn man had been cycling from the age of 14 and his friends said that few in Ireland were as highly skilled as he was.

Mr McCall represented both Northern Ireland and Ireland on the world stage.

He was a Commonwealth Games medallist and made three Commonwealth Games appearances. He also had a long list of honours in Europe and Ireland.

Following his retirement from international racing, Mr McCall served as an Executive of the Ulster Cycling Federation (Cycling Ulster).

The father-of-two qualified

as a level three coach and commissaire and, being passionate about safety on the roads, he was the driving force behind the motorcycle marshal training scheme, which he launched.

He jointly ran Sportactive, which organised cycling and walking trips to Majorca and the French Alps. He was involved with Scottish Cycling and the Braveheart Fund, which raises funds to help young riders achieve their potential.

He also cycled the length of Ireland in less than 24 hours to raise money for charity, while holding down a civil service post.

Mr McCall was a member of the Maryland Wheelers club, Lisburn and the club has |established a charitable foundation in his name to support cycling in Ulster.

A tribute to Mr McCall on the club’s website says that his “industrious, positive and often brash attitude towards cycling” has been missed.

Another friend said: “Davy was more than cycling.

“He was really larger than life. He is missed every day.”

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