Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Police driver accused of causing death in chase

Police driver and the motorist he was pursuing have both gone on trial accused of causing the death by dangerous driving of an 18-year-old Co Antrim youth.

David Thomas James McKee was the passenger in a car being chased by police in the early hours of December 10, 2009, when he was killed.

Constable Peter Blair (38) with an address at Lodge Road PSNI station in Coleraine, and 32-year-old Gavin Joseph Mitchell of Dunsuivnish Grange, Portstewart, deny separate charges of causing death by dangerous driving on the Ballybogey Road, between Coleraine and Portrush.

At interview the officer claimed he collided with Mitchell's car during a high-speed chase, while Mitchell claimed he was nudged from behind before spinning out of control, resulting in the accident.

Prosecution lawyer Richard Weir QC told the Antrim Crown Court jury that in the early hours of December 10, 2009, at about 3.45am, police were patrolling in Coleraine when an old-type Renault Clio was spotted driving at speed in the Circular Road area.

At some stage police put on their blue flashing lights, but the Clio accelerated away, followed by the police who were in radio contact with other officers.

However, added the lawyer, the police driver considered the road was becoming too frosty and pulled back.

Despite this the police driver was allegedly able to pick up his pursuit by following tyre tracks left on the roadway by the fleeing Clio.

Trial Judge Stephen Fowler QC also heard that they then drove to the Ballybogey area aware that a collision had taken place, while other police were also searching for the Renault.

Mr Weir said that Constable Blair was one of those who were searching for the car and his observer in the police car said the Clio passed them heading toward Portrush, and they turned and gave chase.

He said according to the observer the police were travelling at about 80mph, while the Clio was travelling even faster.

However, they suddenly came across the Renault, “broadside in the road”, with the passenger side towards the police car.

The observer, said Mr Weir, was aware of their car braking and swerving into the oncoming lane, and as the police car moved to its right, “the Clio reversed blocking the lane” and the two cars collided.

Mr McKee died at the scene as a result of the injuries he sustained.

The court heard that when later interviewed the policeman described the road conditions he perceived that night, which he said were starting to become frosty, “but not too bad”.

Mr Weir said that Constable Blair told detectives that on confronting the Clio in his path, he braked and tried to go around, behind the Clio car, when it reversed into his police car.

However, during his interview Mitchell claimed he was just driving at between 40 to 50mph when he felt a nudge to the car and it was sent spinning and then there was a crash.

Mr Weir said that Mitchell also denied having reversed his Clio car, and did not accept he had caused the death of his passenger by dangerous driving.

However, Mr Weir told the jury that when they had heard all of the evidence they would be satisfied that both accused were guilty as charged.

The trial continues.

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