Saturday 22 September 2018

Anguish of paralysed teenager as ex-boyfriend accused over crash weds while on the run

Anastassiya Phillips
Anastassiya Phillips

Cate McCurry

A teenager left in a wheelchair following a crash has described how her life has been put on hold after her former partner - who is accused of causing the smash - went on the run.

Anastassiya Phillips (19) from Lisburn in Antrim was left fighting for her life when the car she was in overturned on March 15, 2015.

Her ex-boyfriend Beres Szabolcs is accused of dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm after she was left with multiple broken vertebrae, a neck broken in three places, 12 broken ribs that pierced her lungs, and bleeding on the brain.

She is paralysed from the chest down and is now confined to a wheelchair.

Szabolcs, a Hungarian national, fled Northern Ireland months after the crash, but was seen in Northern Ireland in December 2016, when he returned to visit his sister at her home in Ballynahinch.

The Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland took the decision to charge him following police investigations into the crash.

Anastassiya Phillips' ex visiting her in hospital following the car crash
Anastassiya Phillips' ex visiting her in hospital following the car crash

Officers attended his sister's property and served him with a summons.

He was due to appear before Downpatrick Magistrates Court in January of this year, however an arrest warrant was issued after he failed to appear on several occasions.

The Lisburn family claim Szabolcs - also known as Alexander Sandor - fled back to Malta, where it's understood he had been living since the crash.

Anastassiya's stepdad Paul Phillips said: "We as a family feel that now is the time to get justice.

Anastassiya Phillips
Anastassiya Phillips

"It has been a long two-and-a-half years and all we want is for Beres to face the court and receive whatever the court decides.

"We want Anastassiya to be able to get on with her life."

The family say that Szabolcs, who had been going out with Anastassiya for almost a year before the crash, got engaged to, and has since married, an Italian woman who he met after leaving Northern Ireland. 

Mr Phillips said: "We knew that he got engaged in 2016 and that the wedding was taking place last month.

"So when he returned last December we were in constant contact with police and shared information about his whereabouts with them on numerous occasions and told them that he was a flight risk.

"We told police that his mother lived in Malta, she is a wealthy woman, so we said that there were chances he would do a runner."

Mum Yulia Phillips added: "Since he left Northern Ireland in September 2015 he has returned here only twice, to see his sister.

"We told police that he was not living in this country and we were afraid that he would not appear in court.

"No one took his passport or tried to stop him from leaving Northern Ireland.

"Since the accident he has been enjoying his life, he has been travelling and got a new girlfriend who he has since married.

"We told police that they were getting married in September this year and it was somewhere abroad."

A European Arrest Warrant was issued for Szabolcs in August this year.

However, the Phillips family claim he has been able to travel abroad since the warrant was activated.

Mr Phillips added: "If he went through any airport it should have been flagged up that Interpol was searching for him.

"We saw pictures of his wedding in Italy, which his family attended last month.

"He would have had to travel from Malta to Italy for the wedding while the warrant was active.

"We feel very confused as to what is going on.

"When we saw the pictures of his wedding we were devastated, it's like he has forgotten what has happened to Anastassiya.

"I want justice so she can get on with the rest of her life. She needs to be able to plan her future, whether that be treatment, or a career or having a family of her own.

"We took issue with the police handling of the case and made a complaint to the Police Ombudsman, because we warned he was a flight risk and we were sick and tired of passing on information."

Anastassiya fought back tears as she described her life now confined to a wheelchair.

The events management student said: "My life has completely changed. I find it hard to study and I think I'll have to leave college, because I can't cope with the pain and I don't have the same energy as before the crash.

"I don't know what my future is going to be like. I can only hope for the best.

"When I was discharged from hospital we couldn't get a shower downstairs for a year and I had to live in the sitting room and had no private space. Everything has been a fight.

"Emotionally, I couldn't cope. He is so heartless to do this."

Without a conviction Anastassiya is also not able to make a compensation claim - something she said that could improve her quality of life.

"The money from the claim would allow me to access stem cell treatment. There are many different options I can look at. I hope that one day I can walk again and the money would allow me to investigate any potential treatment," she said.

"I also need equipment for the house to make it easier getting around."

Mrs Phillips added: "We don't feel enough is being done to catch him.

"He has been enjoying his life - travelling, getting engaged and getting married.

"We don't think he will be found."

A PSNI spokesman said: "While the investigation is ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment further."

A Police Ombudsman spokesman said: "We have received a complaint about the police investigation into a serious road traffic collision in Co Down in March 2015.

"We are investigating and our enquiries are currently ongoing."

Interpol did not respond to a request for a comment.

Belfast Telegraph

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