Thursday 23 February 2017

Woman convicted over crash that killed children

Richard McCullen

Vera Murden (left) was convicted of dangerous driving
resulting in the deaths of Jayden Murden (1) and Jenna
Murden (4)
Vera Murden (left) was convicted of dangerous driving resulting in the deaths of Jayden Murden (1) and Jenna Murden (4)
Jayden Murden
Jenna Murden

A woman has been convicted of dangerous driving causing the deaths of her nephew and niece two years ago.

Vera Murden (40), Fatima Court, Dundalk, Co Louth, had pleaded not guilty to dangerous driving causing the deaths of one-year-old Jayden Murden and four-year-old Jenna Murden.

The children were fatally injured when the Hyundai Santa Fe SUV driven by Murden crashed into the wall of a former pub at the junction of Maxwell Row and the Newry Road bridge in Dundalk at 4pm on Saturday, January 31, 2009.

Jenna died on February 24 and Jayden died on March 10.

During the five-day trial, Dundalk Circuit Court heard there were three other children in the car: John (10), a brother of the deceased children; Chloe (8), another niece of the accused; and Conor (8), a son of the accused.

The court heard that there were no child seats or booster seats nor was there any damage to the seat belts in the vehicle.

A motorist, Shane Finnegan, who witnessed the crash, said the SUV had passed him travelling at "excessive" speed and then he saw it hit the building through his rear view mirror.

He was the first on the scene and had lifted some of the children from the wreck before other motorists arrived and helped.

Another motorist, Carol Hutchinson, had asked Murden what happened and she replied that she thought she had taken some kind of fit.

Dr Denis Wood, a consultant engineer retained by the defence, told the trial that he had examined the car driven by the accused.

He said he had found deposits of oil in the engine intercooler and Hyundai accepted that a number of issues -- including a problem with oil in the engine -- could cause the engine to over-run or accelerate out of the control.

He estimated that the vehicle had been travelling at between 81 and 110kmh when it crashed and would not have been able to negotiate a right turn into Maxwell Row.

Garda Sergeant James Walsh, a vehicle inspector, told prosecuting counsel Jonathan Kilfeather that in his experience droplets of oil could be found in the intercooler of vehicles that were perfectly serviceable.

The evidence concluded yesterday when defence barrister Giollaiosa O Lidheadha told the court that a second technical expert due to give evidence on behalf of the defence was ill and unable to attend.

Addressing the jury, Mr Kilfeather said the defence had failed to produce evidence of a surge, over-run or revving of the engine out of control and that a technical examination had found no defects in the steering, brakes or engine that would have led to the accident.

Meanwhile, Mr O Lidheadha argued that the evidence had been consistent with that of a car that was out of control.

He said that Sgt Walsh had accepted that he did not know how much oil had been in the intercooler at the time of the accident and Dr Wood had expressed concern that the oil could have caused the engine to over-run and the vehicle speed out of control.

He said the jury was entitled to infer that the speed was so high that it could not have been the intention of the driver to approach the junction at that speed. "It just doesn't make sense," he said.

The jury of eight women and four men took just over two hours to deliver a guilty verdict.

Following a request from the defence, Judge Michael O'Shea remanded Murden on continuing bail for sentence in April.

He directed the preparation of Probation and Welfare report for the adjourned date.

Irish Independent

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