Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Hours after this snap, Thomas stole a car and killed himself and a pal in a high-speed crash


Published 10/12/2013

This final picture of Thomas  relaxing in bed was taken just hours before the fatal crash
This final picture of Thomas relaxing in bed was taken just hours before the fatal crash

Two friends died instantly after they were flung from an out-of-control stolen car during a daytime crash.

Yesterday an inquest heard the dramatic moments which led to the death of Larne men Gary Withers (23), from Doric Drive, and Thomas Morrow (23), from Walnut Park, on Saturday, November 21, 2009.

Morrow arrived to pick up Withers in a stolen black Subaru. His tearful sister Michelle Withers told the court she heard the car before she saw it.

Because of the 'roar' of the engine she looked out to see it.

"Gary said 'see you later' and they zoomed off," she said.

Investigator Sergeant Ivan Connor identified Morrow as the driver of the vehicle as CCTV footage picked up Withers exiting the passenger side to fill the car with fuel.

It was raining heavily and there were "challenging road conditions".

As the driver lost control on the Collin Road in Ballyclare, the car moved in a "rapid clockwise rotation".

Forensic scientist Lyndsay McCormick said: "The car impacted the dry stone wall and tree. They were travelling at a speed too fast for the bend and weather conditions."

Neither were wearing seatbelts. Both were ejected through the back window. Toxicology results found traces of alcohol, cannabis residue and diazepam in both men's blood.

Morrow's body was found between the car and a tree and Withers's body was found in a field. Both suffered multiple injuries including fractures to the skull.

Police were alerted to the stolen vehicle as it travelled to Newtownabbey.

Questions were put by Coroner Jim Kitson to police about the difference between "following" and "pursuit".

PSNI Constable Robert Lucas told the court he was tasked to "simply get eyes on the vehicle, to report its movements to others".

Constable Bryan Gamble from Newtownabbey police station, was driving the police vehicle which last enountered the car before it crashed.

The car passed him and was identified by his observer, Constable Rosemarie Magill. Transcripts of radio transmissions were put to Constable Gamble where Constable Magill was quoted saying: "We are trying to catch him."

Constable Gamble, who is not trained in pursuit driving, responded: "That would have been a euphemism. We were trying to catch up with him."

Inspector Rosie Leech from the PSNI's Roads Policing Unit said there was a "fine line" between the words and that "following" was not permitted within police terminology.

Mr Kitson said: "If you don't even have a word for it, how are police officers going to know what they are supposed to be doing?"

Mr Kitson urged police to keep their legislation on this matter in review, but said: "To describe the situation as a pursuit would be a step much too far."

He added: "Whether they were in a stolen car or not, they will be greatly missed by their families."


Gary Withers' brother Alan Withers (42) said: "The last four years was all about closure and now the two boys can rest in peace. They were two boys who didn't deserve to lose their life."

Thomas Morrow's mum Susan Morrow said: "They have left a big hole in my life. Thomas was fun loving – just a typical fella. I just loved him."

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