Belfast Telegraph

Teen driver accused of killing jogger Lesley-Ann McCarragher shows no remorse and tried to hide car, court told

Accused remanded as witness recalls Saab involved in crash undertaking at speeds of 90mph, while church prays for the members hurt in separate fatal accident on Friday

By Deborah McAleese

A teenager accused of killing a 19-year-old girl in a hit-and-run has shown no remorse and even attempted to hide the car, police have claimed.

The 17-year-old boy was allegedly racing against a second car at a speed of around 90mph when he hit Lesley-Ann McCarragher who was out jogging on Saturday afternoon.

A white Saab struck Lesley-Ann, a former head girl at Armagh High School, on the Monaghan Road close to her Co Armagh family home as the driver attempted to undertake another vehicle on the hard shoulder.

The car failed to stop after hitting the young woman. Instead the driver turned the car around and drove away.

Lesley-Ann was airlifted to hospital in Belfast but died from her injuries on Sunday morning.

A court heard yesterday that police were still looking for the driver of a black Volkswagen Golf, which is believed to have been involved in a high speed race with the white Saab.

The white Saab that struck Lesley-Ann had been bought by the teenage suspect the day before the accident, it was claimed in court. He told police that he had sold the vehicle to two men at the side of the road 45 minutes before the smash.

The teenage boy, who has no driving licence, also contacted the car's previous owner and asked her to tell police that she had sold the vehicle to foreigners, a court was told yesterday.

The car was later discovered in a garage which was rented by the suspect's brother.

At Newry Magistrates Court yesterday a detective sergeant told the court that the youth, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, had shown no remorse.

Members of the public were ordered out of the courtroom before the teenager was produced from custody because of his age.

No members of his family were in court. Lesley-Ann's family had chosen not to attend the hearing.

The youth was charged with a number of motoring offences including causing death by dangerous driving, failing to stop and failing to report an accident.

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Wearing jeans and a navy sweatshirt the accused stood outside the dock with his hands clasped and listened to a short summary of police evidence against him.

The detective claimed that the boy had refused to hand over his mobile phone to officers. He said police believe there was contact between the suspect and the car's last owner via phone call and text at least 100 times.

The officer said it is believed that the youth asked the previous owner of the car via text to tell police she had sold it to foreigners. He said the phone was a vital piece of evidence.

In a surprise move the District Judge ordered the teenager to leave the court with two police officers and retrieve his mobile phone. He was told that unless he handed over the phone to police any bail application would be denied and he would be remanded in custody.

The court was adjourned for two hours for the suspect to surrender his phone.

"No phone, no bail," the judge said. When he returned to court his defence lawyer told the judge that "logistically it proved difficult" for the phone to be retrieved by the defendant.

He said that a family member had been instructed where to find the phone and to surrender it to police.

The judge told the boy that he would be released from custody on strict bail conditions when police received the phone.

The court heard that a 999 call was made to police at 12.27pm on Saturday, April 9 from a witness who said there had been a hit-and-run involving a white Saab and a female on the Monaghan Road in Armagh.

It was reported that the driver of the white Saab had been undertaking another car on the hard shoulder and hit a jogger.

The motorist then turned the vehicle around and drove off towards Armagh, the court was told.

A witness also saw a black Volkswagen Golf racing the white Saab at speeds of around 90mph.

The court heard that the teenager accused of killing Lesley-Ann by dangerous driving had purchased the car around lunchtime the previous day.

Shortly after the collision police contacted the boy on his mobile phone and asked him if he had been driving the white Saab, the court was told. The teen replied, "No", and hung up the phone, it was claimed.

At 9.10pm that night he handed himself in at Armagh Police Station where he told officers that he had sold the car 45 minutes before the accident to two men, possibly from the south, at the side of the road.

However, the detective sergeant told the court: "If two foreign people bought it how did it end up in the brother's garage?"

The officer added: "Police believe he made attempts to hide the car... At no time did he admit to driving the car... No remorse was shown by the defendant."

The detective said he also had concerns of interference and intimidation of witnesses should the youth be released on bail.

He revealed that checks of the phone network found "well over 100 contacts" between the defendant and the car's previous owner through text and calls before and after the accident.

"She claims to be in fear of this man and his family... She is a very significant witness," the officer added.

If the youth's phone is surrendered to police he will be released on his own bail of £200 to reside at an address known to police in Co Armagh.

He has also been ordered not to contact the victim's family or any of the witnesses in the case.

The boy simply nodded to say he understood the conditions before he was led back into custody by prison officers.

On Sunday, Lesley-Ann's heartbroken parents described their daughter as "beautiful and intelligent" with a smile for everyone.

Lesley-Ann had attended Aghavilly Primary School before going to Armagh High School where she was appointed head girl.

After her GCSE exams she completed her A Levels at the Royal School Armagh. That led to a food technology course at Loughry College in Dungannon where she had just completed her first year.

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