Enda Dolan's mum 'still haunted by my son's final moments - did he die at once, or a few minutes later, all alone?'
The heartbroken family of student Enda Dolan are haunted by the last moments of his life.
Speaking yesterday as his killer's sentence was extended from seven to nine years - four-and-a-half of which will be spent behind bars - his devastated mum Niamh broke down as she relived the horrific way her son died.
"We think of him lying there on his own on the road," said Niamh. "These men stopped their van, they saw him, but they left him there. We wonder if he died immediately, was it instant, or a few minutes later that he died there, all on his own?
"We'll never know, and that is incredibly hard to deal with."
Architecture student Enda had been at Queen's University for just three weeks when he was mown down by David Lee Stewart in October 2014.
The 18-year-old from Co Tyrone was walking home when he was hit by Stewart's van and dragged for half-a-mile. Devastatingly for his family, even after stopping and seeing Enda, Stewart and his passenger William Casement drove away down the Malone Road.
"That's a horrific thought," said Niamh. "Enda on his own."
Niamh, who looks after star student Enda's younger siblings Adam (7), Andrew (10), Ben (14) and 18-year-old Dervla full-time, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after her son's death.
"I get flashbacks," said Niamh. "And I haven't slept properly since Enda died. I've tried counselling once, and I might think about it in the future."
The night of the talented musician's death is still extremely raw for the family - and what makes it even harder to bear is that he died the night of Dervla's 16th birthday.
"He'd texted me that day to tell Dervla happy birthday," said Niamh. "I'd rolled my eyes because he had no money on his phone and I thought: 'he's away at university and I'm still paying for his top-ups'.
"But I texted him back later that night, about 10.30pm after we'd had buns for Dervla's birthday, to ask what he was up to. I didn't ring him that late because he'd only been at uni for three weeks, and I didn't want to be worrying about him. I didn't think for a second anything would be wrong."
Tragically, less than four hours later, at around 2.20am, Stewart's van hit the sports-mad teenager.
Within two hours, police were at the family home in Killyclogher, Co Tyrone.
"With that moment, with the doorbell ringing at 4.20am, our lives changed forever," said dad Peter. "By the time we got to the hospital, we were just identifying him. He was just gone."
Niamh held out hope all the way to Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital that police had made a mistake and that Enda was safe, asleep in his bed.
"Halfway up the motorway, I'd turned my phone on and it bleeped with a message back from Enda saying he'd stayed in the halls," recalled Niamh. "I kept thinking: 'No, it's okay, they're wrong, Enda wasn't out'. I held on to that the whole way."
Tragically, Enda's message had been sent before he and a friend had decided to go out after all.
"There have been very difficult moments," said Niamh. "Dervla's 18th in October - Enda's anniversary Mass was that day. It's so cruel. She'll have that every birthday for the rest of her life.
"There are 365 days, why did it have to be that night? For her 18th we had a party in a local bar. Enda was a party animal and he'd have wanted her to have a good time.
"Enda was a fantastic big brother. The little ones were heartbroken. Not long after he died Adam, who was just five, asked when Enda was going to turn 19. I had to tell him Enda wouldn't ever be 19."
The family are hoping that the result of the appeal will help draw a line under what's happened, and help them move on.
"Sometimes I'd look at Enda and think he was just too good to be true," added Niamh. "He seemed so good at everything, although he worked very hard. He was great at art, the guitar, he was a great runner. But most of all he was such a nice person, and we were proud of him every day of his life. We always will be."
The Dolan family have set up The Enda Dolan Foundation, running guitar workshops in the summer and organising running events, to remember two of his great passions.