Family tell of 'void' as hit-and-run driver who killed jogger Lesley-Ann McCarragher jailed
The family of an Armagh teenager killed in a hit-and-run have told how the void in their lives will never be filled as the man responsible for her death was jailed for nine years yesterday.
Lesley-Ann McCarragher (19) was jogging along the Monaghan Road in Armagh on April 9, 2016 when she was struck by a Saab which sped away from the scene without stopping.
It was driven by Nathan Finn (19), of Keady Road, Armagh, who initially denied all charges against him but later accepted causing death by dangerous driving and whilst having no licence or insurance.
Co-defendant Damien Paul McCann (31) of Lagan Road, Keady, was the driver of a Volkswagen Golf and it was claimed that the pair had been racing.
He was originally charged with causing Lesley-Ann's death by dangerous driving but on learning he was to be prosecuted he absconded, significantly delaying proceedings against himself and Finn in the process.
When he finally did appear, he denied the charge. Following legal discussions, the Public Prosecution Service accepted a plea to dangerous driving only.
Both men appeared in the dock at Newry Crown Court separated by custody staff.
In a statement after the trial, Lesley-Ann's family paid tribute to her, saying: "As a daughter, granddaughter, sister, niece, cousin and friend, the void left since April 9, 2016 will never be filled. A light has gone out in all of our lives.
"We will never see Lesley-Ann complete her studies, find the love of her life, and perhaps have a family of her own. Instead, we are left broken-hearted."
The court heard Lesley-Ann left home at around noon, and it was the last time her family would see her. Whilst she was jogging along the hard shoulder, Finn and McCann's cars were coming at speed. A witness described them as "racing, absolutely flying".
Finn drove aggressively into the hard shoulder in an undertake manoeuvre, striking Lesley-Ann, who was thrown into the air, landing on the road. Witnesses noted Finn increased his speed and drove off.
Lesley-Ann sustained catastrophic brain injuries and passed away the following day.
McCann was originally interviewed as a witness, but later became a co-defendant.
Finn denied all allegations during interview, claiming that as a part-time car dealer he purchased the Saab the previous day but sold it before the incident.
It transpired he had hidden the car in a garage after fleeing the scene. The court heard Finn contacted the previous owner, warning her to tell police she "sold the car to foreigners".
Finn's lawyer said the case was "pregnant with emotion" and commended the dignity of Lesley-Ann's family.
He said there was "no doubt two young lives have been significantly impacted upon".
McCann's defence counsel said he always contended he had no role in Lesley-Ann's death, although it was accepted there was increased speed.
The defence claimed his client pulled out to overtake Finn, who accelerated deliberately blocking McCann from pulling back in.
Judge Gordon Kerr said nothing before him showed direct connection with Lesley-Ann's death, but there was high speed.
He imposed a fine of £500 and disqualified McCann from driving for two years.
Turning to Finn, the judge said: "He (Finn) had no licence or insurance and shouldn't have been on the road at all. He struck the victim and drove from the scene.
"He gave a dishonest account and attempted to set up an alternative version." Finn was jailed for nine years and disqualified from driving for six.