Belfast Telegraph

Relatives of pensioner who was killed after attending mass carried out their own forensic investigation

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Grieving relatives carried out their own investigation after a pensioner was knocked down and killed yards from his home in south Belfast, an inquest has heard.

John Joseph Gregory, 87, was struck by a car outside his front gate after attending mass at a nearby church.

The driver, Kieran Murray pleaded guilty to careless driving offences during criminal proceedings and turned up an hour late for an inquest hearing in Belfast where he refused to answer questions from the Coroner John Leckey.

Murray, aged in his 20s, replied "no comment" when asked about the speed at which he had been driving and why he had not seen the elderly man.

As he left the witness box, Mr Gregory's daughters wept.

The widower and former plant worker died at the Royal Victoria Hospital on November 13, 2010.

He suffered multiple injuries including bruising on the brain and a laceration to the skull after being hit by a Vauxhall Vectra on Finaghy Road North.

His daughter Anne Murray told the hearing at Belfast's Old Town Hall: "We as a family had not been happy that nobody was going to be charged.

"We as a family carried out our own investigation and someone was charged.

"We paid to have copies of all the reports, paid our own forensic scientist."

The family said they disagreed with forensic calculations that the car had been travelling between 30mph and 40mph.

Mrs Murray who also lives on Finaghy Road North said it was a notorious stretch of road.

"There have been a number of inquiries and investigations on that road because of accidents," she said.

"Since Daddy's accident the road has been narrowed.

"It is known as being a very fast road.

"The speed limit is 30mph but cars on that road do normally travel a lot faster."

Another daughter, who declined to be named, said: "It is hard for us to get our head around, if you drive up to 30mph you cannot kill someone as you see on the DoE commercials."

Mr Gregory was given CPR at the scene and underwent emergency surgery at the Royal Victoria Hospital where he received up to six units of blood.

Medics said underlying heart disease, which had caused two previous heart attacks, rendered him less likely to recover.

There were no traces of alcohol in his blood at the time of death.

The court heard that the Vauxhall Vectra had been kitted out with some tinted windows and Mr Gregory's family also claimed the steering wheel had been altered.

Eye witnesses said it had been dark at the time of the crash but noted street lighting was working and the road conditions were dry.

No-one reported hearing the screeching of brakes and there were no tyre marks on the road.

In a statement read to the court, Deborah Murphy said she saw Mr Gregory, who was dressed in dark clothing with no reflective components, being flung a foot into the air above the vehicle.

Coroner John Leckey extended deep sympathies to the family.

He said: "It seems that Mr Gregory got so close to successfully crossing the road.

"It is so dreadful that this happened when there was functioning street lighting and all the evidence points to there being a good view.

"Why he was struck by the car, there are issues about that."

The cause of death was recorded as multiple injuries as a result of being struck by a car.

Speaking afterwards, Anne Murray said: "We believe that there is only one person who knows what happened that evening and that is Mr Murray and unfortunately we don't get to know because he did not speak in court.

"But he has pleaded guilty.

"The only thing we set out to do was to make sure that Daddy did not get the blame for this accident."

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