There were emotional scenes in court on Wednesday as two men were remanded in custody for causing the death of a Co Down pensioner over two years ago.
Relatives of Che McManus and Daryl Kirton gasped ‘Oh God, Oh my God’ as the judge told the pair at Downpatrick Crown Court that he was remanding them in custody ahead of sentence next month.
McManus (19), of Carriff Court, Downpatrick, pleaded guilty last month on the morning his trial was due to start of causing the death of Patrick Wilkinson by dangerous driving in June 2014.
Kirton (23), formerly of Crossgar but now with an address at Fell Street in Liverpool, pleaded not guilty to causing death by dangerous driving but pleaded guilty to causing death of the pensioner by careless driving.
He further admitted to causing the death of Mr Wilkinson whilst driving with no insurance.
Prosecution counsel David McDowell QC said Mr Wilkinson was helping to herd cattle into his son-in-law Patrick Magee’s small farm on the Killard Road, Ballyhornan when he was fatally injured by McManus’s blue Vauxhall Corsa car at 4.15 pm on June 25, 2016.
He said Mr Wilkinson had parked his Landrover Discovery vehicle across the road to help herd the cattle into the yard.
“Once all the cattle were in the yard he moved the Discovery to face the direction of Ballyhornan.
He was standing with another man, Martin Byrne. Mr Byrne saw the blue Vauxhall Corsa car come round the corner from the direction of Kilclief.
“Mr Byrne said the car lost control and started to spin around and rotate and ended up facing the wrong way.
“The car had struck the Landrover Discovery and also Mr Wilkinson, trapping him underneath the vehicle.”
The court heard the Corsa had been following behind a black Seat Cupra and earlier that day the cars were spotted on CCTV driving through Ballyhornan at speeds of 30mph.
Judge Piers Grant was told that police and an ambulance were immediately called to the scene of the collision.
“Mr Wilkinson died at the scene from his injuries. He was 72,” said Mr McDowell.
When spoken to by police at the scene, Kirton said: “I look in my rear view mirror and saw a puff of smoke.”
Mr McDowell added: “The deceased’s daughter, Patricia Magee, saw her father underneath the car. She was screaming ‘call 999, call 999’.
She shouted at McManus: ‘Look what you have done you bastard. You have killed my father’.
“McManus gesticulated to her and gave her the middle finger.”
The prosecution counsel told the court that an expert who examined the scene said “the road surface was wet with a deposit of mud but added: “This did not contribute to the cause of the collision”.
The expert witness said in a report that he was unable to calculate what speed the Corsa car was travelling at before the collision but he estimated that as the car “spun around and rotated it was travelling at a speed of between 40-51mph”.
McManus was later taken to hospital for treatment to a number of cuts to his head where he was later arrested by police but made no reply.
At a later interview, McManus said he didn’t remember anything until he woke up in hospital.
During his police interview, Kirton said that he came round the road at 40mph, noticed the Landrover Discovery ahead and indicated to go round it.
He added that he was aware of the collision behind him and that the Corsa had struck a man.
The court heard that McManus was a restricted driver having only passed his test three months earlier in March 2014.
Mr McDowell said the aggravating feature in the case was that McMcManus was driving at excess speed in light of the road conditions and his driving experience.
He told the court that in the case of Kirton, the aggravating feature was that he was “driving aggressively”.
Judge Grant heard the victim impact statements on the deceased’s family described as “heart wrenching in nature”.
“This family have faced this case with dignity and compassion,” said Mr McDowell, who added: “They accept that these defendants did not go out that day to kill anyone.’’
McManus’s defence counsel Arthur Harvey QC told the court: “It is my instruction from the defendant to express his profound regret at the consequences of his actions.
“He realises the suffering he has caused and the irreparable damage he has caused as a result. There is nothing I can say or the defendant can say that can in any way repair these consequences.’’
Defence counsel Eugene Grant QC said that Kirton has “expressed his enormous regret and remorse for the suffering he has caused to the Wilkinson family”.
He added that Kirton was now studying a degree course in England and hoped to graduate in July 2017 as a mental health nurse.
But Mr Grant said that any sentence passed could interfere with his career path and “may cause him some difficulties with the Nursing and Midwifery Council’’.
Judge Piers Grant said he required “some time to consider all of the matters in the case’’ and said he would sentence the defendants on January 12, 2017
“The defendants will be remanded in custody until that date.’’
As the defendants were led to the cells by prison staff, family members sat yards away in the public gallery crying.