Belfast Telegraph

Family's hurt as death driver arrives late for inquest and then won't answer questions

BY CLAIRE WILLIAMSON

A family has spoken of its anger after the man who killed their elderly father in a road crash refused to answer questions in court.

An inquest was held yesterday into the death of widower John Joseph Gregory (87) who was hit by a car as he came back from Mass near his home on Finaghy Road North in Belfast on November 11, 2010.

He later died of multiple injuries in the Royal Victoria Hospital.

There was no court case until the Gregory family conducted a private investigation.

This led to car driver Kieran Murray appearing in court where he pleaded guilty to careless driving offences in February.

Yesterday his family broke down in tears when Murray took the witness box and replied "no comment" when questioned by senior coroner John Leckey.

The driver, aged in his early 20s, arrived at the inquest in Belfast an hour late and was reprimanded by the coroner.

He told him that court was a "serious matter and not to be taken lightly".

But while he attended yesterday's inquest, Murray replied "no comment" when asked about the speed at which he had been driving his Vauxhall Vectra with tinted windows and why he had not seen the elderly man.

After the hearing, one of Mr Gregory's grieving daughters Ann told the Belfast Telegraph: "We believe that only one person knows what happened on that evening and that is Mr Murray. Unfortunately we won't get to know because he is not willing to talk in court.

"The only thing we set out to do was to make sure daddy didn't get the blame."

During yesterday's hearing, Mr Gregory's family contested parts of a statement by a forensic scientist.

Dr Lindsay McCormick told the hearing: "The speed of the driver was between 30 and 40mph, but the driver has indicated that it was less than that.

"The body was projected 20 metres."

The family questioned the speed at which Murray was driving at the time of impact.

Ann told the court that although it was a 30mph speed limit, it is a road which is known for "a lot of accidents".

She added that several measures were being introduced to reduce the speed of drivers. The family also posed questions as to how Murray did not see Mr Gregory.

The inquest further heard from several witnesses who either saw or heard what happened after the elderly man tried to cross the road after returning from St Michael's Church.

Deborah Murphy, a neighbour, recalled Mr Gregory looking "hesitant" as though he did not know whether he could cross or not.

Another witness, Elish O'Connor, heard the impact.

She told the court: "I heard a loud bang, I thought it was a bomb going off.

"I saw a man lying on the ground on his mouth and nose. I gave him mouth-to-mouth to try and find a pulse."

Terence McVeigh, a friend of Mr Gregory, said: "It was the right passenger side that hit him, he just seemed to slide off the car.

"I didn't hear screeching or brakes or tyres, but the driver seemed to just pull over slowly.

"He was wearing dark clothes which might have made him hard to see – it was really dark but there were street lights."

The pathologist's statement concluded that Mr Gregory died from multiple injuries, including multiple bruising on the brain and a laceration to the skull.

It added that Mr Gregory's underlying heart disease from previous heart attacks made him less likely to survive his injuries.

Mr Leckey said: "It is so dreadful that this happened when there was functioning street lighting and all the evidence points to there being a good view."

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