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Eugene O'Brien's family 'traumatised' after killer driver Gary McGillion avoids jail


Gary McGillion outside court

Gary McGillion outside court

Caoimhe O’Brien also died in a road accident

Caoimhe O’Brien also died in a road accident


Gary McGillion outside court

The brother of a man fatally injured in a crash a week after he lost his daughter in a separate road tragedy has said he feels "devastated and traumatised" after the driver responsible avoided prison.

Gary McGillion (44) wept in the dock of Londonderry Crown Court yesterday as a judge told him his one-year jail term would be suspended for two years.

McGillion, from Crocknacor Road in Omagh, was also banned for five years for causing the death of Eugene O'Brien (44) by careless driving in 2016.

He had admitted causing Mr O'Brien's death by careless driving, and was cleared by a jury of causing the death by dangerous driving.

The victim, who had been fighting cancer, died at the Royal Victoria Hospital two weeks after the collision.

He was struck by McGillion's car while crossing the Strabane Road in Newtownstewart on October 24, 2016.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph after the sentencing, Mr O'Brien's brother Noel and his wife Marie, who lost their daughter Caoimhe (23) in a crash seven days before Eugene was knocked down, said they left court feeling let down.

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Mr O'Brien said: "I came to court expecting that Gary McGillion would get a custodial sentence, because what price do you put on a life?"

Judges are bound by sentencing guidelines and must take into account mitigating circumstances, such as early guilty pleas, co-operation with police, and remorse, as well as aggravating factors such as intent and excessive violence.

A pre-sentence report said McGillion recognised "the gravity of his conduct and how his actions have impacted upon the O'Brien family" and noted he had expressed "genuine remorse".

However, Mr O'Brien said his family did not accept that.

He added: "Eugene is dead and it was Mr McGillion's fault, not Eugene's, but Mr McGillion didn't once show us any remorse.

"It was said in court he was remorseful for what he did, but he hasn't ever once came to any of us and said sorry, so I don't accept that he is remorseful, he was just prepared to say anything to avoid jail.

"He also said he was Eugene's friend and that they played football together, but that just isn't true. Our Eugene never played football in his life.

"He might have known Eugene, but Newtownstewart is a small place and everyone knows everyone else."

McGillion and his wife Donna Marie were among the 220 people injured in the Omagh bombing, which killed 29.

Mrs McGillion and the defendant were shopping in Omagh on the afternoon of the explosion.

Mr O'Brien added: "One of the most hurtful things for us as a family was the way Mr McGillion was portrayed as a victim during the court case.

"One of the first things told to the jury was that Mrs McGillion was a survivor of the Omagh bomb and so was her husband. But Mrs McGillion didn't kill Eugene, so her name shouldn't have come into it at all.

"I saw the CCTV footage of Eugene being knocked down, flung into the air and then falling metres away. Those images will never leave me.

"This whole experience has left us devastated and deeply traumatised.

"Eugene was walking across the road, he was a pedestrian, and yet it was said in court that he was three times over the legal limit for driving.

"Eugene wasn't driving. He was a pedestrian and I saw the CCTV footage of the collision, my brother was walking steadily across the road when he was hit by Mr McGillion."

Most of Mr O'Brien's family chose to stay away from the court after the first day of the trial, but his twin sister Edel sat with Noel and Marie for the sentencing.

Marie, still visibly upset yesterday, said her brother-in-law had been deeply loved by the whole family and would never be forgotten.

She said his last years had been difficult as he battled his illness.

She said: "Eugene was a twin and him and Edel were the last two in a family of eight, but to the family he was the youngest and we all loved him.

"Everyone in Newtownstewart knew him and thought the world of him.

"He was always doing wee odd jobs for people around the village, especially the older people.

"He never married, so we all looked out for him and he didn't get it easy for the last few years of his life after he was diagnosed with cancer.

"He was fighting the cancer so hard, so it was just awful that his life ended the way it did, and just a week after we lost our daughter Caoimhe in a fatal road crash.

"These have been terrible years for us and we came here to this court hoping it would show that Eugene's life meant something. We left empty-handed."

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