THE heartbroken mother of the three Irish children killed in Denmark's worst-ever road tragedy has hit out at the lack of remorse shown by their killer.
Maria O'Shea broke her silence to tell the Sunday Independent that Lasse Burholt has made no direct contact with her since the crash near Sindal in North Jutland on July 16.
Burholt, 39, was driving at 125kmh in an 80kmh zone when he smashed into Maria's Citroen Berlingo, killing Soren, 11, Saoirse, 9, and Connor, 3. The Danish-born GP, who had been making a left turn, miraculously survived the crash along with six-month-old baby Torben. The Irish-Danish family had been on holiday from Australia, visiting her father.
Last Thursday, Burholt was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and fined €1,340 (10,000 Danish kroner). He was also given a three-year probationary period on his licence. He had pleaded not guilty.
The deputy chief prosecutor said a custodial sentence was not sought for Burholt as fines were the norm in cases of this type.
He added that, although Burholt's speeding was "the main cause of the accident", his office had to take into account that Maria had taken an "illegal" left turn. Maria had originally been charged with this minor offence but the charge has since been dropped by the authotrities.
Maria's Dalkey-born husband, Brian, described the claims that she broke traffic regulations as "galling".
He told the Sunday Independent: "The fact is that Lasse Burholt has been charged and found guilty. Maria has not. The prosecutors say that, even if he was speeding, Maria should have held back before making the turn. Why should she have held back? She slowed down to make a left turn and reviewed the road in front of her. It was clear, so she made her turn.
"The 10,000 kroner fine is outrageous. However, I don't blame the judge. He did the best he could, but his hands were tied by Danish law. The prosecutor had looked for an 8,000 kroner fine, but the judge increased it."
The Sunday Independent has learned that Burholt had just finished a night shift and was driving to his father's house to use the toilet at the time of the crash. A court witness described the slipstream from Burholt's Mitsubishi giving her car a "jolt" as it passed.
"He needed to use the toilet and was speeding," added Brian.
"Why couldn't he have gone behind a tree? My children died because he needed to pee. And he is free to drive again. It's sickening."
The police also discovered – after intensive lobbying by the O'Shea family – that Burholt had made a call on his mobile and texted a number of times on his journey. The last text he received was one minute before the accident occurred, at 9.49am. According to the BT newspaper, he told the court that he didn't look at it until later in the day.
Burholt has never expressed remorse directly to Maria for the accident. "She had to wait four weeks until he was charged, believing she might have been responsible for the death of our children," said Brian.
"She was on suicide watch during that period. He never made contact to tell us directly that he had been speeding. He left us in limbo."
Last month, Burholt said that he believed Maria was not at fault for the tragedy. "I would like to emphasise the fact that I do not blame Maria for the accident in any way whatsoever. It was an accident . . ."
However, Burholt has changed his opinion about who was to blame.
In an email, he wrote: "Maria O'Shea did not see me. Two witnesses behind her [in a camper van] saw me.
"She was the reason the accident happened – but the outcome is on me because of driving too fast."
Maria confirmed that she has received no direct communication from Burholt.
"There's no remorse there," she said. "I am not really surprised to hear that he is still blaming me, despite the court finding him guilty.
"It's typical of the way he has conducted himself throughout this ordeal. I have a problem with the words he was charged with, 'involuntary manslaughter'. He chose to put his foot down. He chose to speed. That was not an involuntary action.
"As for the people in the camper van behind me, they saw Burholt . . . when he crashed into me. They were in an elevated position."
Maria is relieved that the court case is over.
"The judgement has shown that he is responsible. The public know that the crash was not my fault. The verdict was never going to give me what I wanted though. It was never going to bring back my kids," she said. According to Brian, Maria can't drive or work since the accident.
"She says she hasn't the empathy to be a doctor at the moment. To see someone bring their child in with a minor ailment will remind her of the trauma and trigger unwanted emotions.
"She also doesn't want to be constantly identified as the 'poor doc' whose three kids died in a crash. She's a country doctor. Everybody knows her. She can't even fly. Coming back to Denmark from Dublin was a nightmare. Take-off and landing are traumatic for her, the confined space makes her extremely anxious."
At the end of the hearing, Maria read a prepared statement to the court while the Irish consul, David Keating, listened and Brian wept.
One of the three judges was in tears too. Maria spoke of how the children had been happy and singing along to the radio. She was taking them on a play date when the crash happened.
"I wanted passing drivers to remember the children. Christmas is going to be dire. It's very big in Denmark. We were going to take the kids skiing. We can't think too far ahead," said Brian. "There are all these landmark occasions like Christmas that we have to get through. We take everything one step at a time. We have a large family base in Europe, so we will spend Christmas here."
The O'Sheas had redecorated their house in Pemberton, Western Australia, before they left for their European holiday.
"The kids chose the paint for their rooms. It was designed for them. The thought of returning there without them is very hard to bear." Torben cried as Maria gave her final insight into how she is coping.
"You have all this sadness and then you see Torben and feel happy. Your mind focuses on him.
"The flip side is that you then realise you are not thinking of the three children who are not here. You feel guilty because you have taken your mind off them for a moment. Then the sadness returns."