Natasha Carruthers: Family’s heartache as mum’s car crash death now murder probe
The launch of a murder investigation into the death of a Fermanagh mum-of-one in a car crash has "heaped heartache upon heartache" on her grieving family, a close friend has said.
Letterbreen woman Natasha Carruthers (23), was killed on Derrylin's Newbridge Road just before midnight on Saturday in what police originally believed was a "one-vehicle crash".
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Officers said that another woman and a man, also believed to be in their 20s, were taken to hospital with serious injuries.
The car in which Natasha was travelling as a front-seat passenger hit a tree and it was reported that the male driver of the vehicle was transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast.
On Thursday, five days after the crash, the PSNI revealed that they are now treating the collision as murder, and are searching for a second vehicle which is believed to have been involved.
Detective Chief Inspector Eamonn Corrigan said that a 40-year-old man was arrested in the Maguiresbridge area on Wednesday night and has been taken into custody for questioning.
Another man, aged 20, was also arrested in Maguiresbridge on Thursday.
DCI Corrigan said: "At this time we believe that a second vehicle was involved in the collision that cost Natasha her life and our enquiries to date have led us to conclude that the collision should now be regarded as murder.
"We continue to appeal to anyone who was in the Newbridge Road area of Derrylin between 11pm and midnight on the night of Saturday, October 7.
"Did you see the car Natasha was travelling in, a blue Corsa, registration TLZ 8330? Or did you see any other vehicles travelling at speed on the route at around the time of the crash?
"We would also like anyone with dashcam footage that could help the investigation to please get in touch with us."
Enniskillen photographer April Rooney, who is a close friend of Natasha's family and last year photographed the young mum with her one-year-old daughter Lily-Rose, said the news that her death was being treated as murder had "made her sick". She added: "It really does make you sick that there could be someone out there who killed the mother of a one-year-old baby.
"Natasha was a lovely girl who would do anything for you. She was very down to earth.
"She doted on her baby daughter and her animals and she was the apple of her parents' eyes.
"Almost exactly a year ago, Natasha came in with Lily-Rose for a photo shoot. She was devoted to her.
"Natasha's dad Mervyn is still in shock.
"It was bad enough to lose her in a car crash, but to learn it may have been murder is horrific.
"I remember the day Natasha was born - her dad came in and he was over the moon.
"This news has just heaped heartache upon heartache. They are going through a terrible ordeal, and I don't know what they will do."
Former Devenish High School pupil Natasha, who worked at Enniskillen's Bright Eyes Animal Sanctuary, was laid to rest after a service at Rossorry Parish Church on Wednesday.
Reverend Canon Ian Ellis, who conducted the service, said her parents were still in a "state of disbelief" over what had happened.
"They are still trying to process it. The news that it could have been murder will make it all the more difficult and perplexing, and will cause more heartache," he added.
"The church was filled during her funeral service, so many people came to share their memories. Young people came to pay their respects and support the family, who have received support from members of the community.
"We reflected upon how much she was loved and cherished."
Posting on Facebook, Lily-Rose's father Matthew Taggart described Natasha as "an angel" and said he was "so heartbroken".
He wrote: "I love you to the moon and back.
"Our wee girl is gonna be like you when she's older. She will never forget who you are!"
Vice chairman of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council Alex Baird said he had been "surprised" to learn where the accident had occurred.
It took place on a straight section of the Newbridge Road, just as the car was climbing to the top of a hill.
The car was travelling in the direction of Lisnaskea from Derrylin.
"It wouldn't have been a dangerous part of the road, and a high grit surface had been put down there," he revealed.
Fermanagh and South Tyrone UUP MLA Rosemary Barton said that the launch of the murder investigation would "further add to the difficulties of the grieving family and further compound the shock felt by the community in Fermanagh, who are still in a state of disbelief following Natasha's death".
She added that the community would focus on supporting Natasha's family.
When asked why it had taken five days to launch a murder investigation, a PSNI spokesperson said police had been "carrying out extensive enquiries since the collision occurred and as previously stated these have led us to conclude that the collision should now be regarded as murder".
Anyone with information on the collision can contact police on 101, quoting reference 1852 07/10/17.