Report to follow on fatal car chase as family a step closer to inquest
A Police Ombudsman probe into the PSNI’s role in a high-speed car chase that ended with a young mum being killed in north Belfast has concluded.
The investigation was launched after Lisa Gow (32) was struck by a stolen Audi A4 on the Ballysillan Road in April 2018.
The driver, Martin Alexander Nelson, was sentenced to 11 years in jail back in 2019.
A spokesperson for the Police Ombudsman said Lisa’s family has been notified of the development.
“The report on this investigation is currently being drafted and details of the findings of this investigation will be made public when this process is completed,” the spokesperson added.
Following the fatal crash, the mother-of-two’s heartbroken sister Rebecca described the moment her life changed forever.
“I read about it online and I just thought, ‘That poor girl’,” she recalled.
“Then around five hours later I found out it was my sister.
“We are all completely devastated, but there’s also a lot of anger.”
The PSNI said the stolen vehicle was being tracked by the police helicopter on the morning of April 19, 2018, and that it was being pursued on the motorway towards Fortwilliam before exiting onto the Shore Road.
PSNI Superintendent Melanie Jones claimed specially trained officers ended their pursuit once the car failed to stop on the Antrim Road and they handed over to colleagues in the air.
However, dozens of witnesses challenged her version of events as they described how Lisa’s body lay at the scene for nearly five hours after the collision.
She had just dropped her two young children, Olivia and Riley, off at Ballysillan Primary School.
Officers struggled to identify Lisa due to the horrific injuries she sustained — only a receipt that she’d been clutching in her hand made it possible.
After consoling her devastated parents, Peter and Agnes — who left flowers at the spot where their daughter died — one witness expressed the collective anger in the community.
“The accident didn’t just rob Lisa of her life, it robbed her of her last ounce of humanity. Her poor parents will never see her face again,” the local resident said.
A school minibus driver who was transporting pupils from Mercy College was adamant that he saw police cars pursuing the vehicle at speed right up until the collision.
“The only way I can describe it is reckless,” he said.
Just over 24 hours later, eyewitnesses were vindicated when a spokesperson for the Police Ombudsman’s office confirmed officers had, in fact, been in pursuit of the stolen car.
Further evidence emerged during Nelson’s court appearances when the video footage was played to the judge.
It showed two police cars pursuing the vehicle along the Antrim Road and onto Ballysillan Road as Nelson jumped traffic lights and at times veered onto the wrong side of the road.
The court was told that Nelson knew he was being chased because of “blue flashing lights” and a sounding “siren”.
The court also heard that police were travelling just seconds behind Nelson, who at times was driving at over 60mph in residential areas, with speeds of up to 117mph clocked on the motorway.
Experts calculated the stolen vehicle was moving at 51mph when it struck a van which sent it into a spin before hitting Lisa.
Lisa’s father, Peter, expressed disappointment that Nelson, who had 242 previous convictions, including 55 motoring convictions, was given a three-year discount for entering a guilty plea — that was even though the judge accepted Nelson had shown little remorse.
Mr Gow was furious after learning that Nelson had been released on bail following a court appearance just a day before Lisa was killed.
He was also serving the remainder of a three-and-a-half-year sentence on licence after being freed from prison in March 2018.
“I think the police played a big role in this,” Mr Gow previously told the Belfast Telegraph.
“If they [had not been] in pursuit then Lisa would still be alive.
“I blame him [Nelson], but the police played a big part too.”
Nelson failed to have his sentence reduced after claiming there were flaws in the legal
process after he had admitted causing death by dangerous driving.
But the Court of Appeal rejected all arguments put forward by the man described by senior judges as “a career criminal”.
In January 2020, Lord Justice McCloskey said the offender “has emerged as someone impenetrable and seemingly incurable”.
The Police Ombudsman report will bring Lisa’s family a step closer to getting an inquest into her death.
“The coroner is considering whether to hold an inquest in this case,” a spokesperson for the Courts and Tribunals Service confirmed.
The content of the Police Ombudsman report has not been disclosed, meaning it is not known if any officers will face criminal charges.
But if they don’t, and an inquest goes ahead, it will be the coroner who has the final say on whether to recommend prosecutions to the PPS.