Wednesday 21 August 2019

'He will get a second chance at life, Jillian never will': driver gets 14 years for fatal car chase

‘Taken from us’: Jillian Thornton
‘Taken from us’: Jillian Thornton

Richard McCullen

The family of a 20-year-old woman who was killed when the driver of the car she was in led gardaí on a 35-minute pursuit before crashing has said he "took everything from us".

Michael Collins (45), of St Finian's Park, Drogheda, Co Louth, was jailed for 14 years yesterday at Trim Circuit Court.

In a victim impact statement, Jillian's sister Elaine condemned the lack of remorse shown by Collins throughout the course of his trial.

"He'll get a second chance at life, Jillian never will," she said.

The family appealed to young people to think twice before getting into a car with someone they don't know.

"Jillian never knew Michael Collins until the night he killed her. She was the type of person that would trust anyone and that night she was killed she got in the car with that man and in the end she paid with her life.

Convicted driver Michael Collins, from Drogheda, Co Louth. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson
Convicted driver Michael Collins, from Drogheda, Co Louth. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson

"The reality is we have to live with that, we have to live to with his actions," said Elaine.

"It's so hard to try to get it into your head that he killed her, that he took her from us. We are not a family any more, he took her from us, he took everything from us."

Jillian's mother Lorraine said: "It could have been all stopped if he had only stopped the car, that's all he had to do, stop the car and let her out because she wanted to get out."

Following a 13-day trial, Collins was found guilty of dangerous driving causing the death of Ms Thornton on May 27, 2016, at Waterside Great, Duleek, Co Meath.

Collins, who defended himself after sacking his legal team at the start of the trial, was also convicted on two charges of endangerment, 12 charges of dangerous driving and driving under the influence of an intoxicant on the same date.

The court heard Collins was on his way to a music festival in Mullingar on the night with the victim and another woman who survived the crash.

Scream

Jillian was killed when she was thrown from the back seat of the defendant's car, which was split in two when it collided with another car near Ballymagarvey on the N2 following a 35-minute pursuit.

It began when Collins failed to stop for gardaí after driving the wrong way on a roundabout at Waterunder, Drogheda, and continued through the town and east Meath before he headed north on the N2 towards Slane and then turned back in the Ashbourne direction.

The court was shown CCTV footage of part of the pursuit in Drogheda.

The trial heard recordings of 999 calls from the passengers in the car claiming the driver was going to crash unless gardaí called off the pursuit. One of the calls made just before the crash ended in a scream.

The court heard evidence of Collins speeding on the wrong side of the road, being involved in near misses, driving head on at Garda vehicles, travelling without lights and weaving from side to side.

A garda said the defendant appeared to have been playing "chicken" with other motorists.

Collins was found to have cannabis in his system on the night. He told gardaí his "head had been melted" and claimed in court he had been in fear for his life at the time as someone had put a hit on him and he did not believe it was gardaí who were following him.

At the sentence hearing, Judge Martina Baxter praised the restraint shown by gardaí on the night and expressed her sympathy to the Thornton family.

The judge said Collins had shown a lack of remorse and still blamed everyone but himself for what happened.

Irish Independent

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