Belfast Telegraph

Ex-officer adamant police car did not hit dying girl

BY AMANDA FERGUSON

A retired police officer is adamant he did not drive an RUC vehicle over the body of a pregnant teenager as she lay dying on a road, an inquest has heard.

Nicola Russell (16), from Harcourt Drive in north Belfast, was the first person killed on Northern Ireland's roads this millennium.

She died at the Royal Victoria Hospital on January 1, 2000, after suffering a head injury when she was thrown from a car on the Ballagh Road, Newcastle, shortly after 2.20am.

She was 14 weeks pregnant at the time.

The driver of the vehicle, Gerard Rogan (25), was jailed for causing Nicola's death and later took his own life.

Two RUC officers in an unmarked Ford Mondeo were in pursuit of the red Ford Sierra that Nicola was a passenger in when it crashed.

The inquest, which reopened this week after being adjourned in March, heard from retired RUC reserve constable Rodney Hanna yesterday.

Mr Hanna, now 55, told Coroner Jim Kitson on the morning in question he did drive an RUC vehicle past Nicola's body, but did not strike her with it at any stage.

"I am adamant," he said. "I am absolutely certain the vehicle I was driving did not strike Nicola."

Mr Hanna said he could not recollect conversations he was alleged to have had about whether the vehicle he was driving had struck Nicola's body, but didn't dispute his senior officers' earlier evidence that he had been Breathalysed when "chatter" about the possibility had arisen.

The court heard Mr Hanna had passed the alcohol level test.

Police witnesses told the court they had no recollection of a conversation with a colleague claiming he had been told at the time "the boys think they hit her".

The findings of the inquest are expected to be announced next week.

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