Scrambler victim Valerie Armstrong was woman of faith and hope: priest

Emotional farewells being said today to mother-of-three Valerie Armstrong who was killed after being struck by a dirt bike last week.
 Mrs Armstrong is survived by her husband of 11 years, Seamus, and her three children
Emotional farewells being said today to mother-of-three Valerie Armstrong who was killed after being struck by a dirt bike last week. Mrs Armstrong is survived by her husband of 11 years, Seamus, and her three children

The loss of a mother-of-three who died after a scrambler motorbike struck her in a park has left her community in a state of “darkness”.

That was one of the messages delivered at her funeral in Poleglass, south-west Belfast, on Monday.

Family and friends paid their respects to Mrs Armstrong (35) at the Church of the Nativity, Poleglass, where she was an active member of the congregation.

Family and friends paid their respects to Mrs Armstrong (35) at the Church of the Nativity, Poleglass, where she was an active member of the congregation.

The fatal accident happenned in west Belfast’s Colin Glen park last Tuesday as she was walking her dog.

She died the next day.

Just as her funeral was getting under way on Monday, the PSNI issued a renewed call for an individual whom they believe was at the scene to come forward.

They said this male passer-by “may have spoken to the rider of the scrambler”, and could have information which could be of assistance to the police investigation.

The individual is asked to call Woodbourne station on 101, and quote reference 1041 19/07/16.

In Father Pat Sheehan’s speaking notes for his address at the funeral mass, which took place from about 1pm at the Church of the Nativity, he said: “This last week has been hard and harrowing.

“Our hearts have been heavy and our grief has been intense.

“So I want to begin today on a positive note because when I think of Valerie Armstrong I think of cheerful and positive person; a person of faith and hope, and I am sure you do too.”

Valerie had worked at Cafe Vaudeville in Belfast city centre, was married to Seamus, and had three children – Dylan, Lucy and Sophie.

She was originally from Rochfortbridge in Co Westmeath.

Fr Sheehan said: “She was creative with her hands, challenged herself with difficult jigsaws and loved doing arts and crafts with her children.

“Indeed Valerie’s coffin is filled with beautiful pictures and painted angels made by Dylan, Lucy and Sophie to accompany her on her journey to God – painted in her favourite colour, purple.”

He also noted that she was an organ donor.

Fr Sheehan added: “We find comfort in Valerie’s own faith in God and we recall her, professing with us each Sunday, her belief in ‘the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come’...

“What happened last Tuesday evening has robbed us of a light and plunged us into darkness.

“What happened has shocked us, angered us and left us broken-hearted.”

He noted that the incident “could have been avoided and should have been avoided”, and that the community’s “shock [had] turned to anger” in the wake of the news.

Addressing the use of scramblers in general, he said: “People need to think about what they are doing.”

Accidents on such bikes can have “devastating consequences, even though that was never intended”.

Burial afterwards was at Blaris cemetery, Lisburn.

SDLP councillor Brian Heading, representing the Collin council district, estimated that at least 500 mourners had been present at the funeral.

Among them were her family from the Irish Republic, including her former local parish priest.

“It was obviously a very sad occasion,” said Mr Heading.

“But the service carried out by Fr Sheehan brought together all the positive contributions she had made; both to the community, and her family.”

The accident itself happened by a small lake at about 6pm.

The park has had problems in the past with youths entering on scrambler bikes and Colin O’Neill, chief executive of the Colin Glen Trust (a charitable body which runs it), said their use in the park is “strictly prohibited”.

A 17-year-old boy – who cannot be named due to his age – was last week charged with causing her death by dangerous driving, and driving without insurance.

A police officer told the judge at a hearing in Belfast Laganside on Thursday that the youth had expressed extreme remorse.

He is to appear again via video link on August 18.

A 15-year-old boy who was also arrested in connection with the incident was later released on bail pending further police inquiries.