A 17-year-old boy was allegedly racing another car when he ploughed into a girl out jogging, a court heard yesterday (Monday).
Newry Magistrates’ Court also heard claims that during police interviews the teenager, who cannot be identified because of his age, showed “no remorse” over the tragic death of 19-year-old Lesley-Ann McCarragher, and claimed he had sold the car on 45 minutes before the accident.
Standing outside the dock beside a prison officer at the back of the court, he was charged with causing the death of Lesley-Ann by driving dangerously on the Monaghan Road, Armagh on Saturday.
He is also accused of failing to stop, failing to remain, failing to report, driving without a licence and driving a white Saab car without insurance on the same date.
Lesley-Ann was fatally injured in a hit-and-run while out jogging close to her family house on the Monaghan Road near Milford at around 12.30pm on Saturday.
She was airlifted to the Royal Victoria Hospital, but died from her injuries on Sunday morning.
In court yesterday, a PSNI detective sergeant claimed police inquiries indicated the alleged killer driver had bought the car the day before the fatal impact and that witnesses had told police the Saab appeared to be racing “an older style” black Volkswagen Golf at speeds up to 90mph.
Police are hunting for that car and its driver.
The officer told the court one witness had described how the Saab was “undertaking a car on the hard shoulder” when it struck Lesley-Ann before turning the car around and driving off.
An ambulance was called and Lesley-Ann was treated initially as being “critical” but the detective added that the prognosis was not good.
Inquiries led police to the last registered owner who told detectives she had received “numerous” text messages from the defendant to the effect that if the police came asking about the car, she was to tell them she had “sold it to foreigners”.
The Saab was located in a lock-up garage rented out by the defendant’s brother and the officer revealed that property is being searched as police suspect there are dismantled parts from stolen cars there.
The 17-year-old handed himself in to police on Saturday evening and was initially arrested for causing grievous bodily injury by dangerous driving. During two days of police interviews “at no time did he admit driving the car”.
The officer said police were objecting to bail amid fears that he would interfere or intimidate the main witness as she fears reprisals from the defendant’s family, and because the teenager had refused to hand over his mobile phone with the alleged text messages on it.
Court was adjourned for a time as District Judge Mark Hamill told the defendant and his solicitor it was a case of “no phone, no bail” so arrangements were made for uniformed officers to escort him to retrieve the phone.
When the court resumed, it appeared there had been a difficulty in retrieving it but that arrangements would be made for it to be surrendered.
Judge Hamill granted bail but the teenager will only be released when police have the mobile phone. The teenager was ordered to appear before the Youth Court on April 22.
As part of his bail conditions, he is barred from being in the front seat of any car, from contacting either the witnesses or the family of Lesley-Ann, and he must reside at an address approved by police.