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Grieving mother in biker appeal


Neil Graham was killed in a road crash two years ago

Neil Graham was killed in a road crash two years ago

Neil Graham was killed in a road crash two years ago

The devastated mother of a young biker killed in a horror road crash has made a heartfelt appeal for motorists to think twice.

Dorothy Graham, whose 24-year-old son Neil died when his motorcycle collided with a car two years ago, has appealed for drivers to be extra vigilant.

Eleven motorcyclists have been killed on Northern Ireland's roads so far this year - an increase of two on the same period in 2013.

Choking back tears, Mrs Graham said: "People do not give motorcyclists the time of day.

"When drivers look at a junction they are looking for the bigger picture - for a lorry or another car. But they need to think about the smaller item. Check for a biker because it's them that you could miss."

Neil Graham, a mechanical engineer from Blackskull Road, Dromore, Co Down, suffered fatal head injuries when his Suzuki motorcycle collided with a Nissan Qashqai car that was turning right at Woodland Park off the Hillsborough Road in Lisburn on May 11 2012.

An inquest at Belfast's Laganside court complex yesterday heard Mr Graham, who had been wearing a crash helmet and leathers, was travelling at a speed of between 55 and 77 miles an hour when he hit a car that had veered into his path. The hearing was told his motorbike should have been visible for at least 3.5 seconds but the driver Rebecca Richards, who was 17 at the time, insisted she did not see him before turning right.

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Mrs Graham said the tragic loss of her eldest son had left a gaping hole in her close-knit family who were still struggling to come to terms with their immense grief.

She said: "Neil was just a really handsome young man who was full of life. He loved going out with his mates and doing all the things young lads do. He was so, so kind and was a really genuine person.

"He had so much to live for."

The 24-year-old, who left behind two siblings, had just bought his first home and was looking forward to starting out on his own.

Mrs Graham added: "Just a couple of weeks before his death he told me he was so happy and that his life was just wonderful. 'I am so lucky,' he said. But it was all gone in the blink of an eye."

She has urged drivers to consider the damage and devastation left in the wake of an accident.

"I am always waiting for Neil coming through the door at half five for his dinner. But I know he's never coming home," said Mrs Graham.

"It has been two-and-a-half years since we lost Neil and it hasn't got any easier. In fact, I think it is harder because the reality of it has hit.

"For the first two years after you lose someone, especially a child, you are in shock. But now I realise this is it - Neil is never coming home. Everyday is a challenge. I break my heart everyday. I just miss him so much. I miss his smile and not being able to tell him that I love him."

No one was ever prosecuted in connection with the accident.

The bereft family have said they feel let down by the justice system after the inquest was adjourned twice.

"We cannot move on," said Mrs Graham. "We cannot accept that Neil is never coming home. It is totally, totally heartbreaking.

"We want justice for our son's life.

"We are angry that it has taken two-and-a-half years to get to this stage. We had to go to court three times and we had to emotionally prepare ourselves for it all. It has just been awful.

"Also, I had written a statement for the coroner's court and I had said I wanted it to be read out in court because I wanted the driver to listen to it. But that was not done."

At the inquest yesterday, Northern Ireland's most senior coroner called for a hard-hitting advert warning motorists to be aware of motorcyclists to be re-run.

John Leckey said the 1975 public service film which carried the catchphrase Think Once; Think Twice; Think Bike was still relevant.

Neil's father Alan said family life has never been the same since the tragedy.

He said: "There were tears in court yesterday but there have been years of crying in our house and there will probably be more still to come.

"I was his daddy and I find it very difficult too. The guy of the house is known as the fixer but I cannot fix this one. I am just stuck."

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