Wednesday 28 September 2016

Man who killed two friends in horrific car crash just minutes after arguing with gardaí is jailed

Greg Harkin

Published 28/04/2016 | 19:47

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A MAN who killed two friends in an horrific car crash just minutes arguing with gardaí has been jailed this evening for three years.

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Noel Carr, (25), from Newmills, Letterkenny, Co Donegal was due to go on trial before a jury at Letterkenny Circuit Court in January but changed his plea.

His sentencing hearing at the same court this evening heard how Matthew Crawford, (21) and Shaun Graham (19), both from Letterkenny died when Carr crashed his 2001-registered vehicle into a wall outside Rathmullan at 3.20am on August 3, 2013.

A third passenger, 23-year-old Damian Gallagher, was seriously injured in the crash.

Gda Enda Jennings told the court that Carr had been spoken to by gardaí in Rathmullan, where a festival was taking place, just after 3am.

Officers had asked him and a number of other people to move from a football field where a crowd had been drinking, said the garda.

Carr later admitted holding a can of beer at the time but claimed he had not been drinking from it.

The driver was taken to Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry after the crash to be treated for his injuries as Letterkenny hospital was closed at the time following the flood there.

The bodies of his two friends were taken to a make-shift morgue in Letterkenny.

In heart-breaking victim impact statements read to the court this evening, the parents of the dead men spoke of how their lives had been turned upside down by their deaths.

Matthew Crawford’s mother Joan said she is haunted by the image of seeing her dead son in hospital when she went to identify his body.

“I still to this day see my Matthew lying in the morgue in the hospital,” she said.

She said she had been waiting for answers to what happened in the crash and criticised the delay in court proceedings.

“I understood the court process but found it hard to deal with. I felt like an extra in the whole process. I am serving a sentence bcause of my son’s death,” she said.

She said her only other child – her daughter Naoimi – had been living in London and planning to move to Canada at the time of the crash but had returned home to live with her.

“She has been robbed; her life has been taken to,” said Mrs Crawford.

“My house doesn’t feel like a home anymore without Matthew here, now it’s just a house.

“My whole life has no purpose except for Naomi. I cannot sleep because of the image of Matthew in the morgue.

“He was spoilt and I loved spoling him. I am a typical Irish mother.”

Shaun Graham’s parents Michael and Caitriona Graham had their joint statement read to the court by prosecuting counsel Patricia McLaughlin.

In it they said there world had been torn apart.

The couple, who both work at Letterkenny hospital, were asked to go to the make-shift morgue there to identify their son.

“The scene will be etched in our memories for the rest of our lives,” they said.

“We remember being asked by the undertaker to pick a coffin for Shaun. No parent should ever be asked to choose a coffin for their child.”

The said Shaun was an athlete and a footballer who was smart and funny and known for his radiant smile.

They said they now faced ”lonely years ahead” without him.

Carr took to the witness box to apologise to the families.

He said he was stupid and irresponsible.

“I will never forgive myself for what I did,” he said.

He said he had visited the families after the crash but couldn’t find the words to apologise.

“I want to tell you how sick, sorry and ashamed I am. I only wish I had the answers. I am deeply sorry,” said Carr.

The court heard Carr had been convicted in May 2012 for careless driving in Ballyshannon in November 2011. The original charge of dangerous driving had been reduced, said Gda Jennings. Carr was fined €600.

He was also given community service in lieu of a five month prison sentence for a section 3 assault causing harm in Sligo the day after the Ballyshannon offence.

Sgt Jennings said Carr was convicted of two public order offences in Letterkenny last year after failing to follow the direction of gardai. He was fined a total of €250.

A forensic report found the car attempted to take a bend at the bridge on the wrong side of the road and there was no evidence of any braking.

Judge John O’Hagan said Carr’s Honda had hit a tree and a wall and had been “busted to smithereens”.

In sentencing, the judge said he had to refer to the sentence handed down by the Court of Appeal to Shaun Kelly who killed eight people in the 2010 Clonmany crash.

“The Court of Appeal lays the gauntlet down to me,” said the judge.

Judge O’Hagan had sentenced Kelly to four years in prison with the final two years suspended.

The Court of Appeal had doubled the sentence.

The judge said Carr had “killed two of his pals stone dead”. He said that was punishment in itself.

“I am impressed with the remorse he has shown,” said the judge.

He sentenced Carr to four years in prison, but suspended the final year.

He also banned Carr from driving for ten years.

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