Sunday 4 December 2016

'There was cheering from car moments before it hit and killed Eugene, and then left the scene'

Declan Brennan

Published 16/06/2016 | 17:04

Christopher Coleman pleaded guilty to dangerous driving
Christopher Coleman pleaded guilty to dangerous driving
Lisa Maher leaving court (second from left) leaving court with family and friends

A man who fatally knocked down a cyclist when he drove a car at speed through a red light had been banned from driving at the time, a court has heard.

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Eugene Maher (62) died from head injuries hours after being struck by a car driven by 27 year old Christopher Coleman.

Eugene Maher
Eugene Maher

Judge Melanie Greally said she would take a week to consider the evidence before sentencing Coleman.

Coleman of Reuben Street, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to dangerous driving causing the death of Mr Maher at Clontarf Road, Dublin on June 30, 2015. He also admitted leaving the scene of the crash and to driving without insurance.

Numerous witnesses from the scene described the car coming out of nowhere on the inside bus lane while traffic was stopped at the red lights. Witnesses also saw the car travelling at speed earlier along the Clontarf Road. They also saw a front seat passenger hanging out of the window of the car gesturing towards another car.

There was cheering and roaring coming from the car shortly before the collision. One witness said he then heard screeching of brakes and screaming before the sound of the impact.

Christopher Coleman (of Reuben Street, Dublin 8, charged with dangerous driving causting death and failure to remain at the scene) leaving CCJ, Parkgate Street, Dublin.
Christopher Coleman (of Reuben Street, Dublin 8, charged with dangerous driving causting death and failure to remain at the scene) leaving CCJ, Parkgate Street, Dublin.

Coleman tried to stop the car by doing a handbrake turn and the car ended up spinning around. He drove off at speed from the crash, dangerously overtaking a number of other cars.

He went to gardaí six days after the collision and told them that he took full responsibility. He said he was very sorry for not having the courage to stop at the scene and claimed he was trying to make an amber light at the junction.

He said he knew he was driving too fast but didn't know how fast. The court heard that if he had been driving at the speed limit of 50kph emergency braking would have stopped the car in 15 metres, five metres short of hitting Mr Maher. Skids marks showed that the car stopped in just under 30metres.

Garda Linda Connaughton told the court that Coleman has 15 previous convictions including four for driving without insurance. In November 2012 a court disqualified him from driving for six years. He was also disqualified from driving in January 2012 and in February 2009.

Coleman told gardaí that he was “so sorry for the family” of Mr Maher. He said he panicked after the crash because he had been banned from driving.

During an emotional sentence hearing the victim's daughter, Lisa Maher, read out three impact reports in which the Maher family described the torture of having to wait six days before their father's body was released to them.

The body could not be released because a suspect would have the legal right to carry out an independent autopsy on the body. After Coleman came forward his full admissions of guilty meant the body could be released.

Ms Maher said her father “lay on a slab in a morgue” for six long, agonising, painful days. She said Mr Maher was her hero, her mentor and her guide and was a generous and selfless man.

Marie Maher said her late husband always said “forgive and forget”.

“My life will never be the same again. Right now I cannot find it in my heart to forgive.” she said.

Mr Maher was the father of Drogheda United star, Stephen Maher.

Stephen Maher said that while death is inevitable and that “we will all experience the death of a loved one”, his father had been left for dead on a busy road.

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