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He turned our lives upside down. We can't forgive: Killer driver took biggest part of our family away, says Seamus Conlon daughter


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Michael Loughran admitted stealing a car and causing the death of Seamus Conlon by dangerous driving

Michael Loughran admitted stealing a car and causing the death of Seamus Conlon by dangerous driving

Seamus Conlon

Seamus Conlon

Kay Conlon with her grandchildren at the spot on the Whiterock Road in west Belfast where her husband was killed

Kay Conlon with her grandchildren at the spot on the Whiterock Road in west Belfast where her husband was killed

Photopress Belfast

The spot on the Whiterock Road where her husband was killed

The spot on the Whiterock Road where her husband was killed

Photopress Belfast

Michael Loughran admitted stealing a car and causing the death of Seamus Conlon by dangerous driving

The daughter of a west Belfast pensioner who was knocked down and killed outside a cemetery, said her family cannot forgive the driver who turned their lives "upside down" for ever.

Geraldine Conlon was speaking after Michael Loughran (33) pleaded guilty to being the driver of a stolen car which was involved in the fatal collision which took her father's life on the Whiterock Road last August.

Seamus Conlon died after he was struck by a silver Vauxhall. The 70-year-old great-grandfather had just attended a funeral at the City Cemetery when the fatal incident occurred.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph after Loughran was remanded into custody at Belfast Crown Court until he is sentenced this autumn, Geraldine said the court hearing had been very painful for the family.

Loughran, whose address was give as Maghaberry Prison, yesterday admitted stealing the car and causing Mr Conlon's death by dangerous driving.

Appearing via videolink from Maghaberry, he also pleaded guilty to the offences of aggravated vehicle taking causing death, driving without insurance causing Mr Conlon's death and driving whilst unfit through drink or drugs.

Geraldine revealed she and her family watched proceedings unfold remotely from the family home where her father should be - just days after they marked the first anniversary of the devoted family man's death.

She said it had been difficult for them all watching via videolink.

"It was the first anniversary of his death last Monday. It was very hard, especially the first year. The way he was taken from us... going to a funeral and coming back in a box. It's just been hard," she explained.

During the hearing Loughran offered his "deep regret" to Mr Conlon's family via his barrister, Gavan Duffy, "for the consequences of his actions and the death of their loved one."

Mr Duffy told Judge Geoffrey Miller QC: "I appreciate that what I'm saying probably will have little or no consolation to the Conlon family and I understand the very tangible anger and loss they must feel... but I wanted to indicate on his (Loughran's) behalf his deep regret for what has happened and what he has done."

Geraldine said she cannot forgive Loughran for what he did that day - even if he did decide to admit his guilt.

"We don't forgive him at all," she said.

"Even when he came in saying he was sorry for what he'd done... no, just no, because he took the biggest part of our family away, which was my daddy."

She stressed the family's overriding feeling is one of anger.

"I know he's pleaded guilty but it's not going to bring my daddy back," she said.

"He has turned our lives upside down."

Geraldine also revealed she has a precious final photograph taken of her father as he attended the funeral, just before his death.

She said the loss of her father, who has eight grandchildren and one great-granddaughter, had left a deep void in them all.

Mr Conlon had only welcomed the birth of his great-granddaughter, Riona, a month before he was killed.

"My daddy was one of the best," she continued.

"He would've done anything for anybody, for both sides of the community and the Travelling community.

"He was well known everywhere, no matter where he went into, he was well known everywhere."

The mother of three explained the past year had passed "like a blink of an eye.. too quickly" and the first anniversary had been marked with the laying of flowers at the scene of his death.

Geraldine said the sad occasion had been particularly hard for her mum, Kay, who had been unable to visit the scene until last Monday.

"It's just been really hard," continued Geraldine.

"And it's even worse for my mum, because those two were 15 when they started going out together. Last year they both hit 70 years of age and it's killing her."

She said her mother lives round the corner from where the incident happened "and it's all too close for her".

"With me, I drive up the road and go to my own house, it's too close to home for mummy," she said.

"It took a full year and she went up there on the anniversary.

"She came up with us all to put flowers there, and that was the first time she had been to where it happened, even though it's only around the corner."

Geraldine said her father had been well known in the area, and loved his horses, taking to one at Christmas time dressed as Santa Claus to entertain children in Ballymurphy and throughout west Belfast.

The pensioner also loved fishing and travelling to Stoneyford, which Geraldine said was "his second home".

"He's missed by everybody, all the neighbours and friends from both sides of the community still come and see my mummy," she explained.

"I was out at the Park Centre and one of the workers actually called me over, who does fishing. And he told me that all of the fishermen had a wee whiskey in Stoneyford on August 3, and said to me 'can you let your mummy know'.

"They always said that you could hear my daddy arrive in Stoneyford before you saw him. He loved his fishing in Stoneyford. That was his second home when he wasn't running after everybody else."

Describing her father as an "outgoing family and community man", who would have done anything for his loved ones, Geraldine added that his grandchildren and great-grandchild have been left "devastated" by his death.

"They have been since day one. Anything they wanted, Granda ran and jumped," said Geraldine.

"Granda would have run to the end of the earth and back again for them. He was even like that with me and (my brother) Seamus when we were growing up too.

"He was well-respected. He brought us all up properly. He's so badly missed."

Yesterday Judge Miller heard Mr Conlon's family had requested that some relatives be allowed to physically attend court for Loughran's sentence, which is expected to take place in late September or October.

The Conlon family are also preparing reports ahead of sentencing, outlining the impact Mr Conlon's death has had on them.

Geraldine said that while they are relieved Loughran has pleaded guilty, they were not accepting his regret.

"He's essentially ruined all of our lives. It's bad enough to have someone close dying but for them to be taken like that from us... daddy's just missed," she explained.

"We got a bit of justice today, but it will never bring my daddy back. The way he was taken from us was just horrendous.

"This has been going on for a year. He was caught at the scene. We thought it would have been done and dusted before now. We've not been able to grieve properly because this has been hanging over our heads."

Loughran denied a further two charges - driving with no insurance and possessing the Class A drug cocaine. However, the Judge was told this may not require a trial and should not stand in the way of sentencing.

The case was listed for mention on August 21.

Loughran was remanded back into custody.

Belfast Telegraph