A forensic scientist has said there were “no mechanical defects” with a car driven by an Orangeman that collided with a group of pedestrians at a north Belfast interface.
The scientist from the Road Traffic Collision Unit was giving evidence on Tuesday at the trial of John Alexander Aughey, who is accused of driving into a crowd close to the Ardoyne shops fronts following a band parade in July 15.
The 63-year old has been charged with – and denies – six offences arising from the incident, including dangerous driving causing grievous bodily injury to a teenage girl who became trapped under the accused’s Nissan Pulsar.
The jury also heard from several police officers at the scene of the collision – one of whom said he signalled and shouted at Aughey to stop as he was “very, very concerned” for the trapped girl’s safety.
The same officer also told Belfast Crown Court he felt three people in the crowd had “considerable influence” over the rest of those gathered at the shop fronts.
The jury has already been shown footage of Aughey’s Nissan striking the group following an Orange parade on Monday July 13, 2015.
Tensions at the interface were heightened on the evening in question after a Parade Commission’s determination banned an Orange lodge and flute band from returning past the nationalist Ardoyne shop fronts area.
The car stuck the crowd as Aughey, from Brae Hill Park in Belfast, attempted to do a U-turn on the Crumlin Road.
His car was examined the following month, with a forensic scientist today revealing no defect was found that would have contributed to the incident.
The forensic scientist said that, after viewing CCTV footage and stills from the incident, injured teenager Phoebe Clawson was thrown into the bonnet before landing in front of the vehicle, and was then dragged or rolled about four meters whilst underneath the vehicle.
Aughey exited his vehicle 23 seconds after it came to rest.
The jury of eight women and four men also heard from police officers at the scene.
One officer said just before the collision he saw a bottle thrown by someone in the crowd strike the car, while a second person kicked out at the vehicle at a set of traffic lights.
The constable said that after observing the car attempting to make a u-turn, he went to approach the Nissan as he did not know what the driver’s intention was.
The officer said he drew his baton and signalled for the motorist to stop.
Saying the car travelled on and “pushed persons out of its way”, the officer said he saw a young female going over the bonnet.
He said he again signalled and shouted for the driver to stop, telling the court: “I knew that the young girl was under the car and I had serious, serious concerns about her well-being. It was a very uncomfortable time.
“I was very much focused on the driver of the vehicle and the vehicle’s engine revs, which were increasing.”
He also said at one point he believed he was going to be run over.
Under cross-examination from Greg Berry QC, the barrister representing Aughey, when he was asked whether the crowd was jeering and shouting, the officer said: “I was aware of three people controlling the crowd.”
When asked who these three were, the officer said: “A lady whom I don’t know, and prominent figures from within the Ardoyne community.”
He described these community figures as “Mr Copeland and another chap who I know goes by the nickname of Dee.”
The officer said these three “certainly had considerable influence over the crowd”.