A pensioner, who was just six days short of his 101st birthday, died after being knocked over by a taxi at the entrance to his care home, a coroner has found.
Grainger McIldoon (100) had been walking with the aid of a three-wheel stroller in the car park of Tennent Street Residential Home, off the Shankill Road in north Belfast, when the incident happened.
The retired engineering worker from Belfast struck his head off the road and died a day later in the Mater Hospital.
At the widower's inquest yesterday, Northern Ireland's senior coroner John Leckey heard differing accounts of the fatal incident in July 2008.
A lawyer for Peter Bradford, the driver of the silver Mercedes Value Cab taxi involved, said his client denied hitting Mr McIldoon or his stroller. Noting the pensioner had a medical history of falls, the solicitor speculated he had fallen over and hit his head as he walked behind the taxi.
But a fellow resident of the home, Christina Langridge, who was watching out the window of the smoking room, said she clearly saw the car reversing back and hitting Mr McIldoon's stroller, causing him to fall back.
Ms Langridge was unable to attend court, but her statement to police was read into the record.
Mr Bradford's lawyer questioned how clear her view would have been from the smoking room as she was sitting down at the time and had to look over a hedge.
The court heard a prosecution was initially directed against Mr Bradford but was later withdrawn.
Mr McIldoon had accompanied a visitor to the front gates of the home and was walking back when he sustained the injuries.
Craig Millar, another visitor to the home who had been dropped off by Mr Bradford, said his standard of driving entering the grounds had been very good.
“I was walking away from the taxi and heard a bang. I looked round and saw an elderly man lying on the road surface,” he said in a police statement that was read to court in his absence.
Mr Bradford did not give evidence to the inquest hearing, but answers he gave to police at the time were read to the court.
He told an officer he was sure there was nobody behind him.
“I looked behind me and checked my mirrors, there was nobody there,” he said.
The driver passed a breath test carried out at the scene.
Tina Maliwat, a former deputy matron at the home, tended to Mr McIldoon as they waited for an ambulance. The nurse, who was not in court, told police he often walked in the grounds.
A police forensic specialist said he had examined three possible scenarios: that the taxi hit the pensioner; that he fell as he tried to avoid the reversing vehicle; and that his fall and the taxi reversing were not linked.
He said he was unable to determine which was the more likely.
Mr Leckey said the standard of proof in a coroner's court was based on the balance of probabilities, and on that basis he believed Mr McIldoon had been knocked down by the reversing taxi.