Youth acquitted of killing garda run over by his car
Published 05/02/2011 | 05:00
A 19-year-old has been acquitted of the manslaughter of a garda, who was struck by a car while investigating the report of a car theft.
Jamie McGrenaghan, of Gortnatraw, Kerrykeel, Co Donegal, had denied the manslaughter of Garda Robbie McCallion in Letterkenny following the incident on March 26, 2009, but had pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing his death.
At Letterkenny Circuit Court yesterday afternoon, it took the jury just two-and-a-half hours to return a unanimous verdict of not guilty in respect of the manslaughter charge.
Gda McCallion's grieving parents Bob and Nancy, sisters, Deirdre and Noreen and brother John, who travelled daily from Co Mayo to attend the three-day trial, broke down in tears when the verdict was announced. Gda McCallion's girlfriend Maria O'Donnell was also inconsolable.
In a trial last October, a jury failed to reach a verdict on the manslaughter charge and the state was granted a retrial.
On that occasion, the jury found McGrenaghan guilty of endangering the lives of two other gardai, Gda Joanne Doherty and Gda Shane Lavelle, on the night that Gda McCallion was fatally injured.
The youth, who also pleaded guilty yesterday to a string of burglary offences committed a month earlier, will be sentenced by Judge John O'Hagan next Friday.
Before sending the jury out, Judge O'Hagan advised its members not to get carried away by the fact that the victim had been a garda.
"There is tragedy on both sides and nobody can mend that. But you are asked to ask yourself if there was a high degree of negligence that led to manslaughter.
"Don't be carried away by the fact that he was a garda. You must look at it in a cold and a calculated manner," he said.
On the night in question, Gda McCallion (29) and his two colleagues had responded to a report of a suspected car theft in the Tara Court area of Letterkenny.
When they arrived they were met with two youths, one of whom was attaching a tow-rope to the front of a car and the other, McGrenaghan, in a second car behind with the engine running.
The gardai blocked the exit from the estate with the patrol car as McGrenaghan reversed his car at high speed, paused, spun the wheels and drove at speed toward the garda car.
The three gardai ran for their lives but Gda McCallion was struck by McGrenaghan's car with such force that he was flung into the air and ended up in the garden of a nearby house.
He died of his injuries in Beaumont Hospital less than two weeks later.
The state's case was that McGrenaghan had used his car as a form of missile on the night and driven directly at the gardai, only swerving at the last minute.
But the defence argued that McGrenaghan had been attempting to escape the gardai and exit the estate in the space between the stolen car and the garden walls when he lost control of his car.
Senior counsel Denis Vaughan-Buckley told the jury McGrenaghan had previously pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of Garda McCallion, an offence that required a high degree of negligence.
He also pointed to the unusualness of a person being charged with both manslaughter and dangerous driving causing death and he questioned whether the manslaughter charge had only been brought because the victim was a member of An Garda Siochana.