Belfast Telegraph

Second inquest into teens' road death faces legal fight from driver

By Colin George

A new inquest ordered by the Attorney General into the deaths of two Fermanagh teenagers may be legally challenged by the driver who knocked them down as they walked home from school.

Debbie Whyte (14) and Nathan Gault (15), both pupils of Devenish College in Enniskillen, were struck by a Renault Megane as they walked home along a road at Florencecourt in Co Fermanagh on November 27, 2008.

The Public Prosecution Service had previously decided that no one would be prosecuted in relation to the accident. At the time Debbie's parents, Colin and Ann, said: "We feel let down by the system and that justice will never be done for Nathan and Debbie."

The initial inquest in March 2010 concluded that wearing "illuminating clothing" could have prevented the deaths of the two school friends.

The court heard how Nathan and Debbie and their friend Wayne Manley had got off a school bus and were walking abreast on the dark road and were wearing dark uniforms when the tragedy occurred.

Wayne told the inquest pupils got small reflective devices at school but "we never used them".

Now the Attorney General for Northern Ireland, John Larkin QC, has ordered a new inquest.

Reggie Ferguson, the solicitor representing the car driver, Eva Seaman, said she had received a letter telling her a new inquest had been ordered.

He said the 1959 Coroner's Act allowed for a new inquest in "very limited circumstances".

He told the coroner, Jim Kitson, that he was considering seeking leave for a judicial review of the Attorney General's decision to order a new inquest.

A spokesman for the Attorney General refused to comment on why a new inquest had been ordered.

He said: "The Attorney General does not make public statements on any decision made under Section 14 of the Coroners Act 1959, but provides reasons for his decision to the family and the coroner." The coroner was unavailable for comment.

However, the Belfast Telegraph understands that there has been an allegation of shortcomings in the police investigation of the crash.

Mr Kitson told the preliminary hearing on Monday: "If a judicial review is granted the inquest will have to be adjourned, but, all things being equal, we'll press on."

He added: "I anticipate this inquest being called in September/October time."

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