Judge hails woman for resisting car-jacker as he sends thug to prison
A woman who fought back when a man tried to steal her car in the centre of Belfast has been praised for her bravery.
As west Belfast man Gavin Gerard Francis Wilson was jailed for four offences arising from the incident last April, the female motorist was commended in court yesterday for "having a go, rather than just standing back and letting this man steal your vehicle".
Wilson, from Lady Street, initially denied trying to take the Toyota MR2. However, in the midst of a trial at Belfast Crown Court last month, he son admitted his guilt.
The hijacking occurred around teatime on April 1 last year, when the woman had parked her car at Kent Street and was standing outside her vehicle, checking her windscreen wipers.
The driver's door was closed and the keys were still in the ignition. At this point, Wilson, who was dressed in dark clothing with a hoodie and scarf covering most of his face, got into the driver's seat.
The owner was able to yank open the driver's door and pull herself onto Wilson's lap, using the steering wheel for leverage.
She was also able to remove the keys from the ignition, but because the car had a turbo timer, the engine remained on for a full minute.
Despite a struggle between Wilson and the motorist, during which she stuck her finger in his eye, the car was driven a short distance before colliding with a van. It then crashed into a stop sign, after which Wilson fled on foot.
During yesterday's sentencing, Judge Neil Rafferty QC spoke of the "considerable inconvenience" caused to the motorist, who not only had to pay for the damage to her car, but also had to review her personal security because her house and car keys were taken.
Defence barrister Barry Gibson told Judge Rafferty that his client was "very apologetic" and had written a letter to the woman because he was "acutely aware of the hurt he has caused her".
The defendant, who admitted four offences including aggravated vehicle taking causing damage and driving whilst disqualified, was handed a two-and-a-half year sentence.
He was informed he would spend half the term in prison, with the remainder on licence upon his release.
The judge told him: "I note that this took place on April Fool's Day, and you were certainly the fool."
Commending the female motorist's bravery, Judge Rafferty also told Wilson he "found more than he could handle" when she fought back.
He additionally said the woman "had the guts and determination not to put up with you stealing her car... she has to be praised for what she did".
In addition to his sentence, Wilson was banned from driving for four years.