Belfast Telegraph

Inquest into Belfast man shot dead driving stolen car through checkpoint

By Angela Rainey

An inquest has opened into the death of a man shot and killed by police as he drove a stolen car through a checkpoint.

Judge Neil Rafferty, who is acting as coroner, opened proceedings in Belfast yesterday.

Steven Craig Colwell (23), a father-of-one from west Belfast, was killed on April 16, 2006 by bullet wound to the chest.

He had attempted to drive a car through a checkpoint outside Ballynahinch Police Station, which had been set up to intercept the vehicle.

The court heard how the shot was fired through the window of the car by an officer who was granted anonymity and would be referred to as 'Officer O' throughout the proceedings.

Relatives of Mr Colwell were present, including his son Jordan (17), who was just a child when his father was killed.

Mr Colwell's oldest brother Gary appeared as a witness.

He recalled how his parents lost two of their children in tragic circumstances and how Steven, as the baby of the family, was much-loved and a "typical wee boy".

He said: "A few years before Steven was born we lost my little sister Amanda when she was killed in a road traffic accident.

"My parents were absolutely devastated.

"Then along came Steven and he was like a message from God. He was so special in our house.

"You couldn't go near him, he was so loved, he was always with my mum and dad, he went everywhere with them.

"He was a lovely child and as he started getting older he was a mischievous wee boy, a typical wee boy really, and he loved football."

Gary, who was 16 years older, added: "He was so young - we protected him, he was our cub. He was a wee skitter, but a lovely wee boy.

"I remember being in the street with my mates when my mum came out shouting for me to get my dad.

"She was in labour, so I remember the day he was born. It was a special day and you don't forget those sorts of things."

Gary told the inquest how Mr Colwell suffered brain damage when he was hit on the head with a brick, while still of primary school age.

The injury was so severe that Mr Colwell underwent a six-hour operation to remove pieces of skull from his brain.

Initially he lost his speech which caused him to "feel frustrated", and he had to attend a special needs school.

Years later, to prevent him from "mixing in the wrong circles" the family had helped Mr Colwell move from his father's house off the Shankill Road to Main Street, Cullybackey, for a "fresh start".

The inquest heard that he enjoyed the change, but still saw his friends from west Belfast.

Gary said the family still finds it hard to come to terms with the loss a decade on.

He said: "I'm glad my mum and dad are not sat here today as this would have destroyed them. This has been constantly hard on us all, on the whole family."

He added that he was glad that the matter had now progressed to a full inquest hearing.

The inquest is set to continue for at least two weeks with statements from 98 witnesses to be heard.

Counsel for the inquest Peter Coll QC warned the court that the number of witnesses could "grow exponentially".

The inquest continues.

Belfast Telegraph

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