Belfast Telegraph

Teen who died in car chase was not hit by RUC vehicle

BY AMANDA FERGUSON

The inquest into the death of a pregnant teenager – 13 years after she became the first person killed on Northern Ireland's roads this millennium – has concluded she was not hit by a police car during a chase.

Nicola Russell (16), from Harcourt Drive in north Belfast, was killed on January 1, 2000 following a police pursuit of a car she was travelling in. She died after suffering a head injury when she was thrown from the vehicle on Ballagh Road outside Newcastle.

Nicola's boyfriend Gerard Rogan (25) was jailed for causing her death. He later took his own life. There was a suggestion at the time that Nicola was hit by a pursuing police car after being thrown from the vehicle, which had crashed into another car.

The inquest, which opened in March, examined whether or not it was appropriate for police to have pursued Rogan in light of existing guidance, and secondly whether or not the pursuing RUC vehicles struck Nicola.

Police at the scene raised the concern she may have been hit by one of their own vehicles.

State Pathologist Prof Jack Crane said Nicola's death was caused by bruising and laceration of the brain associated with skull fractures. He said there was nothing to suggest a wheel or wheels had gone over her body.

Coroner Jim Kitson said: "Prof Crane discounts the suggestion Nicola was driven over by police. He had been alerted in advance to police concerns and was therefore alive to the possibility of vehicle impact injuries. While he cannot entirely exclude the possibility some of Nicola's more minor abrasions could have been caused by a vehicle, he is quite clear the fatal head injuries were sustained when she impacted the road, having been thrown from the Sierra.

"Accordingly, I intend to record the cause of death as lacerations of the brain, associated with fractures of the skull, due to ejection from a moving vehicle consequent upon a road traffic collision."

A PSNI spokesman said: "Police acknowledge the findings of the coroner's investigation. Police extend their sympathies to the family of Miss Russell."

No one from the Russell family was available for comment.

BACKGROUND

Nicola Russell (16), from north Belfast, was the first person killed on Northern Ireland's roads this millennium. She was 14 weeks' pregnant when she died on January 1, 2000, at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, following a crash in Newcastle, Co Down. Nicola's boyfriend Gerard Rogan (25) was jailed for causing her death and later took his own life. On Friday, coroner Jim Kitson said he was recording the cause of death as lacerations of the brain, associated with fractures of the skull, due to ejection from a moving vehicle consequent upon a road traffic collision.

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