Belfast Telegraph

Hit-and-run accused ‘feared for his life’

A man accused of a hit-and-run collision at an Eleventh Night bonfire feared he could suffer the same fate as two British soldiers dragged from their car and killed in west Belfast 20 years previously, the High Court has heard.

Dean Nesbitt's lawyer also rejected any suggestion that he deliberately drove at revellers, disclosing that the accused was himself a Protestant who took part in the same celebrations.

Sixteen people were reportedly injured when a Rover 25 drove through a 200-strong crowd at Coolfin Street, off the Donegall Road in Belfast, early on July 12.

Nesbitt (30), of Violet Street in the city, is accused of causing grievous bodily injury by dangerous driving, failing to stop or report an accident, driving while disqualified and having no insurance.

During a bail application the court was told his car was surrounded as it moved through the area of the bonfire.

Sectarian abuse was allegedly shouted at him, including being called a “Fenian b******”.

Nesbitt was said to have accelerated after the door of his car was then opened.

Defence counsel Conor O'Kane argued, however, that it was never previously disclosed that his client is from a working-class Protestant, loyalist background.

“The whole suggestion seems to have been that he deliberately drove at these people and caused these injuries,” the barrister said.

“This man has no difficulty or animosity towards people attending bonfire celebrations.”

Mr O'Kane insisted that it was only after Nesbitt's car was surrounded that he drove off in fear for his life.

A comparison was made with the harrowing killings of the two corporals who were murdered after driving into an IRA funeral in 1988.

Mr O'Kane said when he read the papers it reminded him of “the sad case of the two British soldiers surrounded in west Belfast”.

He added: “That's what was going through his (Nesbitt's) mind.”

Judge Mr Justice Hart, in refusing bail, said: “There is a strong prima facie case against this man of committing serious offences.”

Belfast Telegraph

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