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We can finally grieve, says Seamus Conlon daughter after killer driver is jailed

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Geraldine Conlon, the daughter of Seamus Conlon, outside Belfast High court after the sentencing of Michael Loughran who admitted killing the 70-year-old by dangerous driving and driving while unfit through drink or drugs.
PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON

Geraldine Conlon, the daughter of Seamus Conlon, outside Belfast High court after the sentencing of Michael Loughran who admitted killing the 70-year-old by dangerous driving and driving while unfit through drink or drugs. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON

Michael Loughran

Michael Loughran

Geraldine Conlon, the daughter of Seamus Conlon, outside Belfast High court after the sentencing of Michael Loughran who admitted killing the 70-year-old by dangerous driving and driving while unfit through drink or drugs. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON

A 33-year old man whose dangerous and drunken driving in a stolen car killed a west Belfast great-grandfather was sentenced to 10 years on Tuesday.

Michael Loughran - who was deemed dangerous due to the ongoing risk he presents to the public - will serve an additional three years on licence when he is released.

Following a drink-and-drugs binge, Loughran stole his uncle's silver Vauxhall Vectra at around 10.30am on Saturday August 3 last year.

After driving dangerously on several roads in west Belfast for around an hour and a half, he lost control of the car and killed 70-year old Seamus Conlon.

The popular pensioner had just attended a funeral in the City Cemetery when he was struck and killed on the Whiterock Road.

Loughran was detained at the scene after attempting to flee and in the aftermath of the fatal collision, displayed behaviour described by Judge Stephen Fowler QC as "provocative and shameful."

As he sentenced Loughran to ten years, with an extended period of three years on licence, Judge Fowler noted that Loughran has continued to take drugs in prison.

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Geraldine Conlon, the daughter of Seamus Conlon, outside Belfast High court after the sentencing of Michael Loughran who admitted killing the 70-year-old by dangerous driving and driving while unfit through drink or drugs.
PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON

Geraldine Conlon, the daughter of Seamus Conlon, outside Belfast High court after the sentencing of Michael Loughran who admitted killing the 70-year-old by dangerous driving and driving while unfit through drink or drugs. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON

Geraldine Conlon, the daughter of Seamus Conlon, outside Belfast High court after the sentencing of Michael Loughran who admitted killing the 70-year-old by dangerous driving and driving while unfit through drink or drugs. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON



Speaking outside Belfast Crown Court after sentence was passed, Mr Conlon's daughter Geraldine said: "I'm pleased with the outcome, but it will not being my Daddy back."

Flanked by relatives who wore t-shirts bearing Mr Conlon's image, Geraldine and her brother Seamus spoke of the impact their father's death has had on the family circle.

When asked about the length of the sentence handed to their father's killer, Seamus said: "Nothing will ever be long enough, but we're just glad it's ever."

His sister Geraldine revealed their father suffered from diabetes and had overcome two heart attacks and cancer before he was killed. She said: "We never expected him to be taken like that. We thought it would be his heart or skin cancer - not to be wiped out in a stolen car."

She added: "From the day it happened, our lives have never been the same. But at least we can start to grieve properly now. We can put this chapter behind us and and start grieving as a family."

Geraldine and Seamus attended today's sentencing, where they heard Judge Fowler said he had "no doubt" their father was "sorely missed." Judge Fowler noted the "great distress" caused to the Conlon family and spoke of the "great dignity they have showed throughout these proceedings."

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Members of Seamus Conlon's family at Belfast High Court on Tuesday. Picture by Stephen Davison/Pacemaker

Members of Seamus Conlon's family at Belfast High Court on Tuesday. Picture by Stephen Davison/Pacemaker

Members of Seamus Conlon's family at Belfast High Court on Tuesday. Picture by Stephen Davison/Pacemaker

Loughran - a father of two whose address was given as Maghaberry - appeared at the hearing via a videolink with the prison.

He was sentenced for seven offences arising from the fatal collision last August including causing Mr Conlon's death by dangerous driving, driving whilst unfit, aggravating vehicle taking causing death and causing death by driving without a licence.

In the 24 hours leading to the collision, Loughran had injected cocaine in addition to drinking ten tins of beer, four litres of cider and a quantity of alcohol. Cannabis and Diazepam were also found in his system.

Prior to the fatal collision, Loughran was observed driving the stolen car dangerously on roads in west Belfast. The vehice was involved in several incidents before striking Mr Conlon, including hitting a lamppost and other vehicles, driving on the wrong side of the road and speeding.

CCTV of Loughran's dangerous driving was played at a previous court hearing, and clearly showed the Vauxhall being driven with an underinflated rear tyre.

Other footage showed Loughran getting out of the car on Millenium Way and stumbling round before getting back in the vehicle and driving off.

Regarding the fatal collision, at around noon the Vectra was travelling on the Whiterock Road in the Falls-bound lane, and as it approached a portion of the road near the City Cemetery, it moved onto the opposite side of the road and passed a central island.

On passing the island, the car spun back across the road whilst rotating 180 degrees. The Vectra's offside then struck both a stationary Toyota van and Seamus Conlon, who was standing talking to the van's driver.

The van was then thrown onto the footpath where is struck a second pedestrian, and while the second pedestrian and the van driver were both injured and have since recovered, Mr Conlon was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 12.57pm.

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Seamus Conlon

Seamus Conlon

Photopress Belfast

Seamus Conlon



Judge Fowler said that after watching footage of Loughran's driving prior to the fatal collision, and of his "provocative and shameful behaviour" to members of the public directly after the collision, it was clear Loughran was "heavily intoxicated".

Branding this behaviour - which included Loughran saying 'I don't give a f***' - as "irrational and unstable", Judge Fowler also noted Loughran's criminal record, which included prior offences for driving with excess alcohol and dangerous driving.

Judge Fowler said it was clear Loughran's life had been "chaotic" and that he started drinking in his teens. Revealing Loughran was still taking drugs in prison, the Judge said he failed a drugs test last November, and refused to undergo a second test this August.

He was deemed as presenting a significant risk to the public by Probation and was considered to be a dangerous offender by Judge Fowler.

Due to this finding, Loughran will not be automatically released on licence after completing half his sentence. Instead, he will be assessed by the Paroles Commission, and may not be suitable for release until he has served the whole ten years.

Once released, he will spend an additional period of three years on licence - and will be subject to recall during that period. In addition, he was banned from driving for seven years.

During the sentencing, Judge Fowler said Loughran has expressed remorse for what he did. When asked if she accepted this, Geraldine Conlon said: "We didn't accept it then and we don't accept it now. He knew what he did. The day he got into that car, he knew what he was doing."

She said she will remember her father for his jokes, laughter, and the love he showed to his family. She said: "He's really really badly missed by everybody."

Belfast Telegraph


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