Killer driver bailed day before Lisa Gow's death crash in Belfast
Grieving family’s fury at release
The anger among Lisa Gow's family is "palpable" following revelations that the driver who admitted killing her was freed on bail just 24 hours earlier.
It has emerged that Martin Alexander Nelson, who admitted driving the stolen Audi A4 which ploughed into the mother-of-two on Ballysillan Road last Thursday, had been released on bail at Belfast Crown Court the day before the crash.
Councillor Dale Pankhurst met with Lisa's parents Agnes and Peter and her partner John on Saturday.
He said: "They are distraught over losing Lisa, but the anger in that house is palpable. This is a man with a long history of criminal convictions and someone who should not have been free to walk the streets."
Nelson was released on bail after he admitted being unlawfully at large from Magilligan Prison between October 30 and November 3, 2017.
He also admitted resisting a police officer in the execution of his duty on November 2 while he was on the run.
Mr Pankhurst said the 39-year-old had a "shocking track record" and that the revelation raised even more questions and had only added to the "unnecessary hurt" police had caused.
"The family are furious that given his criminal history he was ever even considered for bail, never mind actually granted it," he added.
The PSNI sparked outrage when it claimed officers ended their pursuit of the Audi A4 on the Antrim Road before handing over to the police helicopter.
Their version of events was strongly refuted by dozens of traumatised witnesses which resulted in the Police Ombudsman's Office launching an official investigation to establish the facts. On Friday evening it challenged the police's account.
"Video from the police helicopter and from within the lead police pursuit car clearly shows that when the collision occurred, police were a matter of seconds behind the suspect vehicle," the Police Ombudsman's Office said.
Mr Pankhurst slammed the police's handling of the incident so far as "completely and utterly wrong" and "disgraceful".
He also claimed the PSNI had robbed the family of breathing space to grieve and remember Lisa in peace by denying the pursuit, which he said "beggars belief" and had allowed rumours to "mushroom".
"Instead they are now left wondering if the police had acted differently, or if this man had not been granted bail, would Lisa still be alive?" he said.
"This was an awful tragedy to begin with, but it has been made so much worse and these legitimate concerns have detracted anger away from the driver.
"The police have made it easy for him to start making excuses and have completely destroyed this community's trust in the police.
"Thankfully they now have reason to trust the Ombudsman's investigation."
Lisa's sister Kellyann described Nelson as a "monster".
On the morning Lisa was struck by the stolen Audi she had dropped off her children Olivia (8) and Riley (5) at primary school.
Over the weekend the children left a heartbreaking tribute to their mum at the very spot where she died.
It read: "To mummy, I miss you so much, I can't believe you are gone. I hope you love heaven. I love you, I love you. Do you like your big wings now you can fly?"
In a statement issued on Saturday her family described her as "a loving, caring and devoted mother" who was "full of joy, full of energy and full of love" and said they were "overwhelmed" by the response of the entire community.
Last night former Justice Minister David Ford said he shared the family's frustration but was confident the truth will come out.
"It is deeply concerning that the PSNI and the Police Ombudsman came out with very different versions of events within such a short time," he added.
"There are serious questions around the circumstances which led to this tragic death and it is the Ombudsman's job to investigate that, but ultimately the driver of the stolen car is the only person to blame for this - the perpetrator must bear sole responsibility for this."
The Alliance MLA said the ongoing investigation should be carried out as efficiently as possible to ensure that Lisa's family know exactly what happened.
"That might mean having to wait," he said.
A traumatised resident, whose partner has had to leave the house for a few days after witnessing the horrendous crash, welcomed the Ombudsman's statement confirming what he knew all along.
"I can't get the memories out of my head, I haven't slept since it happened and I can only imagine what her family are going through," he said.
"I'm glad they were quick to come out and confirm what we all knew and saw with our own eyes, but I don't think they had an option."
Lisa's funeral will take place in St Andrew's Church, Forthriver Road, at 1.30pm tomorrow and will be followed by a service at Roselawn Crematorium at 3.30pm.
Kellyann has asked those attending to "add a touch of colour" to their attire as a tribute to Lisa's "colourful" personality.
The PSNI said it would "not be appropriate to comment" while the Police Ombudsman's investigation is ongoing.