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Relatives break down in court as second jury fails to reach a verdict on crash death of girl (15)

By Staff Reporter

A jury has failed to reach a verdict in the retrial of a 26-year-old man accused of causing the death of teenager Charly-Jean Thompson by careless driving.

Lee Walter Hegarty, of Molesworth Road, Cookstown, was also accused of causing grievous bodily harm to Charly-Jean's boyfriend Ryan McCracken in the same incident on August 14, 2013.

Charly-Jean was a rear seat passenger in a BMW being driven by Hegarty when it collided with a Toyota Helix 4x4 at Drum Road in Cookstown before striking a telegraph pole.

The 15-year-old was rushed to Craigavon Area Hospital, then transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital, but passed away from her injuries.

Mr McCracken, who was 17 at the time, was a front seat passenger in the BMW, and had to be cut free after being trapped in the wreckage.

After the first trial last May ended with a hung jury, Hegarty, who denies the charges, faced a fresh prosecution before Judge Gordon Kerr.

Prosecution counsel told the jury the BMW was travelling on Kildress Road in the town and did not stop at the junction with Drum Road.

A collision occurred with the 4x4, which was coming from the other direction.

Charly-Jean, who had been seated behind Hegarty, was found with her head slightly to the left and there was blood on her lap.

A passer-by who stopped to assist said she did not respond when he spoke to her, but there was a pulse at her neck.

The court heard that, on the following day, an investigating police officer observed the Give Way sign at the junction between the two roads was facing in the wrong direction.

Efforts were made to obtain fingerprints from the sign, these but proved unsuccessful. The defence argued the sign, which had been moved by a malicious action, was a major factor.

Noel Allen, who was driving the 4x4 that collided with Hegarty, said he was returning home to Cookstown about 9.30pm and there was "light rain, the road was damp and there were no street lights".

Mr Allen said: "I was doing about 50mph and there was no traffic on the road in front, although there was a vehicle behind me.

"The car came out of the Kildress Road. It was going so hard it was on me in no time. I didn't have time to brake."

The impact occurred and Mr Allen described "going over the roof of the car", before his vehicle was sent spinning some distance, coming to rest in the opposite direction.

He was unable to exit as neither the driver nor front passenger door would open.

He became aware of smoke and, fearful there would be an explosion, crawled into the rear seat and managed to push open a door and get out.

Another witness who lives close to the scene described hearing "a massive bang" that "sounded like a bomb".

He said that "there was no screeching of brakes beforehand".

The second trial lasted three days, with the jury retiring to consider their verdict on the morning of the fourth.

Deliberations continued into yesterday, and at one point a message was sent to the judge asking if video evidence of the road could be shown again to jurors.

Around an hour later, a further message was passed to the judge stating a majority decision could not be reached.

Charly-Jean's devastated family, who were seated in the public gallery, left at this point before the jury was recalled. Some of them were visibly distressed by the outcome.

When the jury reconvened, the foreman confirmed no further time would assist in their decision and that they remained split.

Judge Kerr discharged the jury and, agreeing to allow a short adjournment, told the prosecution: "It is important to ascertain as soon as possible whether this matter will run again."

Hegarty was remanded on continuing bail until next month, when he will learn if there is to be a third trial.

Belfast Telegraph

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