Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Justice for the families in killer driver case

After two trials and more than 40 days in court, the families of the four students who lost their lives in a cataclysmic crash finally got justice yesterday.

It was four years ago on February 24 that Graeme Waring (17), Ian Currie (18), and 19-year-olds Philip McMurray and Joseph McDonald died in a horrific car smash.

The teenagers, all students at Lisburn Institute, got into Kurtis Armstrong's car for a lunch-time drive.

Armstrong, then aged 19 and also a student, wanted to show them his Vauxhall Corsa SRI. But what began as a quick drive ended in tragedy.

An eye witness described how the car left the road and the next thing he saw was an 'explosion of sticks' as the car hit the trees on the Ballyhill Road near Ligoniel.

All four sustained massive head and internal injuries.

Armstrong miraculously walked away with just a cut to the back of his head.

Now 23, he had throughout the four years refused to assume responsibility for the crash, compounding the grief of the victims' families who were already battling with the tragedy.

But yesterday at Antrim Court after pleading guilty, Armstrong was sentenced to seven years in jail.

Standing in the dock dressed in a suit and tie, he stared straight ahead without emotion as Judge David Smyth QC told him he was to be imprisoned for his crime, that ended in the deaths of four friends.

After leaving court, members of families who had maintained a dignified presence throughout the trials spoke of their heartache.

Leslie Currie, father of Ian, said they all miss their children "more than words can ever express".

"The past four years have been difficult for us," he said.

"Our grief and anguish have been compounded at times by the apparent reluctance of the driver to assume responsibility or express remorse for this accident.

"We think it is appropriate that the full rigour of the law has been applied."

And the four mothers of the victims also revealed how their friendship - borne out of such a dreadful tragedy - has helped them though the darkest moments of grief.

Jane Waring, whose son Graeme died in the crash, said: "It is a great support, I just don't know how somebody has to go through what we have to endure on their own."

She said she would love to see her son once more just for another five minutes.

"We have always said that time was relative, in that I had my son for 17 years. Jeanette had her son for 17 years, Agnes and Coralie had their sons for 18 years, and that seems to be a long time, but we only had them for a short time."

Agnes McDonald, who lost her son Joe said she was frightened to get back into a car after the crash.

"It left me feeling vulnerable, but I managed to get over it. But speeding cars still concern me."

Coralie Currie said the experience of losing a child cannot be described. " Words cannot describe it... and not just for us, but as mothers, looking after our husbands and children. Justice was the important thing for us at the end of trial.

"Unfortunately, until someone dies you really find out about them.

"And I think each of us have been so touched by their friends telling us how each of our sons had influenced and touched their lives."

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