Belfast Telegraph

As scrambler bike teen who killed Valerie is freed, husband fears meeting him in street

 

By Cate McCurry

The husband of a mother-of-three killed by a scrambler motorcycle has said his biggest fear is seeing her killer walking the streets of Belfast after he was released from prison on the first anniversary of her death.

Gary Lewis (18) crashed into Valerie Armstrong as she walked her dog in Colin Glen Forest Park last summer.

The teenager was released from prison on Wednesday - exactly one year after the loving mum lost her life near her home in west Belfast.

Mrs Armstrong's husband Seamus said it has compounded his grief as the family struggle to deal with the first anniversary of her death.

Seamus and the couple's three children Dylan (10), seven-year-old Lucy and five-year-old Sophie-Bell visited the spot where she was killed before laying flowers at her grave yesterday.

Mr Armstrong had reached out to the probation service to have Lewis' release date changed, however his request was turned down.

The Poleglass teenager, who lives close to the Armstrong home, will have served four months of his 18-month sentence for the mother's death.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Armstrong said: "One of my biggest fears is bumping into him while walking around the shops with my children or out walking the dog.

"The probation service told me that he is not in his family home in Poleglass.

"That's one saving grace, but it doesn't make me any less nervous.

"While the probation board can't tell me where he is living, I understand he's not in this vicinity. He must be in another family home, but most likely in the west Belfast area."

Despite Mr Armstrong's requests for his release date to be changed, he was told by prison officials there was "nothing they could do".

"They could only go by what the courts and Justice Department had decided and they worked out his sentencing between the time he served and what he spent in custody, and it happened to coincide with that date," he added.

"They couldn't do anything about it. They were going along with what they were told.

"They apologised and were very sympathetic but at the end of the day it wasn't their decision - they have been instructed by the courts.

"He was released on Wednesday, and that was difficult."

Earlier this year Belfast Youth Court heard Lewis admitted drinking three beers before the collision on a motorbike later found to have had defective brakes.

Witnesses said Lewis, aged 17 at the time, held 35-year-old Mrs Armstrong's hand and cried uncontrollably as she lay bleeding from her fatal injuries.

He wrote a personal letter to her family, which was handed into court during the proceedings.

Lewis, of Colinvale in Dunmurry, pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and using a motor vehicle without insurance.

The Armstrong family marked Valerie's one year anniversary by visiting her grave.

Mr Armstrong added: "The past two days have been extremely hard. We laid flowers at the scene of the accident with the children while other family members and neighbours also left flowers.

"We will go out to the cemetery today (Thursday) to put flowers at the grave and let off a few balloons.

"The kids were okay up until yesterday and were coping quite well but there was a few tears shed and I'm sure there will be more over the next few days.

"They have been strong, but with more and more people talking about it coupled with the anniversary, it's starting to bring it all back to them."

The family are also backing a fundraising campaign by Valerie's friend, singer and songwriter Miriam Donohue.

The talented musician is raising funds for the Northern Ireland Air Ambulance.

The single Full Bloom, which was written by Miriam, is available to buy on her Facebook page.

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