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Accused caused passenger's crash death by standing in road, court told


Victim: Bernie McNicholl

Victim: Bernie McNicholl

Victim: Bernie McNicholl

A Moneymore man accused of manslaughter is responsible for causing death by his actions on a road, a prosecution lawyer has contended.

Jonathan Ferguson (30), of Elm Park, denies unlawfully killing Bernie McNicholl on April 12, 2015, after the car in which she was travelling struck a tree.

Ferguson is on trial at Dungannon Crown Court alleged to have caused the car to swerve to avoid striking him as he stood in its path.

The victim was the front seat passenger, with her friend Denise Mackle driving and another friend in the rear.

They were travelling home from a night out, and Ms Mackle had driven onto the Moneymore Road in Cookstown at around 2.30am. It is contended Ferguson was standing in the middle of the unlit road with his arms out, trying to stop traffic.

Ms Mackle swerved to avoid striking him, mounted a verge and collided with a tree.

The passenger-side bore the impact and Mrs McNicholl died instantly. The rear passenger was severely injured and Ms Mackle sustained head injuries.

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Police later found Ferguson nearby. He claimed to have started walking home after his stag-night, and saw no collision.

He denied standing on the road, insisting he was asleep at the time.

Prosecuting counsel Ciaran Murphy QC said: "Ms Mackle was faced with an emergency situation and took drastic, evasive action to avoid hitting and almost inevitably killing him.

"Unfortunately, her efforts to avoid killing him resulted in the death of her passenger."

He added that evidence of Ferguson's phone activity at the time was "inconsistent to a claim of being asleep".

Mr Murphy contended that responsibility for the accident rests with Ferguson, who placed himself in a position endangering life.

In her evidence, Ms Mackle told the court: "It was very quick... he just appeared in front of me with two hands up. I didn't see him walk or run out. He was just in front of my car. He was so close I couldn't even have braked. I just automatically swerved to avoid him ... if I hadn't I would have been straight through him."

During cross-examination Ms Mackle was asked whether she "actually saw a person walking out".

She responded: "I saw the last split second of movement... there was no time to turn to see where he came from."

The trial continues.

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