Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Killer of Belfast grandfather 'shoved off' Royal Avenue bus is jailed

A grieving widow wept in court today as her husband's killer who was too ill-mannered to allow the pensioner to be first on a bus, was jailed for a year.

Ordering 31-year-old Gareth Ashe to serve half his sentence in prison and half on licence, Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland said the death of 72-year-old John Hickey had devastated his family and wife of 45 years Margaret.

Judge McFarland told Belfast Crown Court he had received a poignant and moving statement from Mrs Hickey and quoting from it, revealed how she described: "I don't know who I am anymore."

Ashe, from Harrison Walk in Belfast, had pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Mr Hickey on January 21 2012.

Mr Hickey and Ashe had been waiting on a bus outside Central Library on Royal Avenue but when it pulled up there was a "degree of jostling" and Ashe turned and "shoved" the pensioner back with both hands to his chest.

Mr Hickey, a father of three and grandfather to four children, stumbled back and fell, hitting his head on a metal grate which fractured his skull and caused bleeding onto his brain.

Despite the best efforts of medical staff at the Royal Victoria Hospital he tragically died a week after the incident.

Defence QC Brian McCartney had pleaded with the judge that the "unique" circumstances of the case, coupled with Ashe's low IQ bordering on learning difficulties would have allowed him to let Ashe keep his liberty.

Judge McFarland disagreed however and said while it was a very difficult case to sentence, "it had catastrophic consequences" and so was of the view that "an immediate custodial sentence was called for".

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