Belfast Telegraph

Driver 'was flying' before nurse killed in crash, court told

By John Cassidy

A Co Antrim man has been remanded in custody to be sentenced next week after he admitted causing the death of a nurse in a two car collision.

Neil McKee (26), of Castleburn Road, Carrickfergus, pleaded guilty to causing the death by dangerous driving of Heather Steele and also having no insurance.

Belfast Crown Court heard McKee was driving his black Seat Leon car when it collided with Ms Steele's Suzuki Ignis car around 8pm on the main Carrickfergus to Belfast road at its junction with the Castlerocklands Road on August 27, 2014.

A prosecution lawyer said the defendant was driving at a "grossly excessive speed" on the 40mph main arterial route to Belfast when he struck the car being driven by the Royal Victoria Hospital cardiac nurse.

Judge Gordon Kerr Qc was told at the time of the collision the "weather was fine and the road was in a good state of repair and was busy with other traffic".

Emergency crews found Ms Steele (53) trapped in her car which was on the Carrickfergus bound lane facing towards Carrick, while McKee's car had come to a halt on the Belfast-bound lane.

The prosecution lawyer said "a severe impact had occurred as a result of the manner of the accused's driving" on the single lane carriageway which the defendant admitted at police interview he was "familiar with".

The court heard McKee's car had been modified "which led to the insurance not being valid".

A number of witnesses gave statements to police about the lead-up to the collision.

The court was told that a male driver said he was driving at around 30mph when the black Seat Leon "passed him at speed".

A second witness told police: "I can honestly say that the speed of this car shocked me. It was madness."

A female driver said she heard a loud noise coming from the exhaust of the Seat Leon and said it was travelling at a speed "faster than a police car with sirens".

Another male witness said the Leon car "continuing to accelerate past him", adding: "It was really flying."

The prosecutor said that although the witness statements were "subjective", they indicated that McKee was travelling at a "grossly excessive speed".

Judge Kerr QC was told that at police interview, McKee said he was "unsure" of his speed at the time of the collision.

The court heard that a Victim Impact Report prepared for the hearing was a "painful reminder of the loss and suffering" felt by Ms Steele's family and friends.

The lawyer added that McKee had a relevant criminal record after receiving a fixed penalty notice in 2011 for driving at 67 mph in a 40 mph zone.

Neil Rafferty QC, defending, told the court: "These are by there very nature tragic cases. I just want to place on record that anything I say by way of mitigation on behalf of the defendant is not meant to cause offence or hurt on the Steele family who have suffered a great loss.

"It is clear from the Victim Impact Report what a very fine and loving person Heather Steele was. I can also tell the court of the genuine remorse that the defendant has lived with from the moment of this accident.

"From the papers the defendant is described by some of the witnesses as 'screaming' and bereft in the aftermath that he had killed someone after this accident."

Mr Rafferty QC said the fatal collision happened a week before McKee was due to sit a medical to pursue a career in the RAF.

"He struggles to live with the fact that he caused the death of a fine woman by showing off his car which was his pride and joy.

"One family has been left bereaved and his family have been left bereft by what he did. I ask Your Honour to deal with him as leniently as possible."

Remanding McKee into custody, Judge Kerr QC said he wanted to consider a number of documents handed into court and would pass sentence next Tuesday, May 24.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph