A two-year-old toddler was crushed to death because a driver did not fully engage his handbrake, a jury heard yesterday.
Darren Conway’s trial had began at Downpatrick Crown Court, but after the prosecution opening defence lawyer Chris Holmes asked for the charge to be put to him again and the 32-year-old admitted causing the death of two-year-old Rham Gavriel Alvarez by careless driving.
Judge Piers Grant told shop fitter Conway his change of heart was a “wise course of action” and that he was sure “the next of kin will take great comfort in the plea”.
The trial had opened earlier yesterday morning with prosecuting lawyer Sam Magee urging the jury that despite the case surrounding the tragic death of little Rham and the obvious emotions that would evoke, “you must not let sympathy or prejudice cloud your judgment”.
The barrister told how Rham’s mother Imelda was pushing his buggy along the Comber Road in Dundonald on a “blustery” afternoon at the end of December 2012 when Conway’s Volkswagen Golf “careered” into them, wedging the pram and her between the rear bumper and a fence.
The car had silently rolled backwards from the Limetree Residential Home and across the busy road, missing all the other traffic, and into the buggy, causing injuries to the little boy which would tragically prove fatal.
Mr Magee said it was the Crown case that by failing to fully engage the handbrake on his car, Conway, from Rutherglen Gardens in Bangor, had made an “obviously careless mistake” which had had devastating consequences.
Conway, he told the jury, had been at the nursing home visiting his grandfather when he parked his car, smoked a cigarette and then went inside and knew nothing of what happened until he “heard a commotion” outside.
At the scene, he told witnesses and police that he “must’ve forgot to put the handbrake on”, but Mr Magee told the court forensic engineer Emmerson Calendar had examined his car and found that Conway had raised the handbrake just two of a possible 13 “notches” of tension.
Mr Calendar took the VW Golf back to the scene and parked it on a slight incline. He ratcheted the handbrake up by two notches and said “even a strong gust of wind” could have started the car rolling backwards.
Judge Grant disqualified Conway from driving and adjourned passing sentence until both a pre- sentence report and victim impact statement from Rham’s mother have been compiled. Conway was released on bail until next month.