Belfast Telegraph

Mum grabbed daughter seconds before they were struck by hit-and-run driver on Benone beach

By George Jackson

A mother swept her four-year-old daughter into her arms just seconds before they were both struck by a speeding BMW car on a crowded Benone Beach in Co Londonderry, a court has heard.

Donegal plasterer Paul John Doherty, 30, from Ballynahone in Fahan, was arrested 20 miles from the beach after he sped away from the scene and hid his car behind a house on the Barnailt Road, three miles from Limavady.

A police officer told Deputy District Judge Terence Dunlop that Doherty's Northern Ireland registered BMW car was found by the crew of a police helicopter which had been deployed following the hit-and-run.

He said when he arrived in a patrol car at Benone Beach he saw the BMW car being driven at speed towards Limavady.

The police witness said the driver ignored several police signals to stop: "He sped off at speeds of up to 70mph along the Seacoast Road, forcing several oncoming motorists to swerve to avoid colliding with him.

"Because of his speed and because of the busy road at the time, the pursuit was stopped and the helicopter was deployed", he said.

The officer said when police arrived at the Barnailt Road, where the car had been parked behind a partially-built house hidden from the road, Doherty ran away.

"He was caught following a quick chase with the car keys in his hand and he admitted he had taken the car number plates off his car and put them into the boot", he said.

Doherty was arrested and taken to Limavady Police Station where he admitted seven charges in relation to the incidents at the beach and at Seacoast Road.

The charges include dangerous driving causing grievous bodily injury, dangerous driving, failing to stop, failing to remain at the scene of an injury accident and failing to report the accident.

He also admitted driving while unfit due to alcohol, after a preliminary breath test showed he had over twice the legal amount of alcohol in his breath.

The police officer said he had been contacted by many witnesses who were on the beach at the time of the hit-and-run.

They told him the BMW had been doing handbrake turns at speed and that after colliding with the mother and her daughter, the car initially slowed down before speeding off.

"The mother has sustained bruising to her legs and several cuts. Her daughter has a fractured left clavicle and a swollen face and bruises. One witness said after the BMW sped from the beach it missed another child who was digging in the sand by inches", the officer said.

Applying for bail, defence solicitor Paddy McGurk said Doherty had only one previous conviction and that his parents were in court with a €1,000 surety and with his passport.

Declan McCarron, Doherty's employer, gave character evidence on his behalf saying he was an excellent employee who worked for him in Belfast.

The Deputy District Judge said while Doherty was lucky not to be facing more serious charges, the criteria he had to apply in term of bail related to fears of re-offending and of absconding.

"With some degree of reluctance I accept the bail application falls just on the right side of the line", he said.

Doherty was released on his own bail of £500 plus one surety of €1,000 to appear in court again on August 19.

As part of his bail conditions he must not drive nor must he contact any of the prosecution witnesses in the case.

He was also ordered to abstain from alcohol and prescription drugs, and to report to Strand Road Police Station in Derry each evening.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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