'I don’t think I’ll ever get over him' - girlfriend of hit-and-run victim Matthew Bradley (24)
The devastated girlfriend of a man who was killed in an horrific hit and run has told how they had planned to spend the rest of their lives together.
Matthew Bradley, an award-winning landscape architect from Glenavy, Co Antrim, was on a stag night with friends in Liverpool on Friday when he was struck by a grey BMW car on the Strand in the Albert Dock area around 11.40pm.
It is the second roads tragedy to hit the Bradley family as Matthew’s brother David — who was only five years old — was killed after being struck by a car near the family home in August 1994.
The 24-year-old, whose family described him as “funny, kind-hearted and generous”, was taken to the Royal Liverpool Hospital at 2.30am on Saturday but later died from his injuries.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, Rhiannon Williams (24), who lived with Matthew in Guildford, said she dropped him off ahead of his night out before travelling on to north Wales to stay with family.
“On the way in the car we were making plans for Christmas,” she said.
“We spent last year with his family so he was going to have his first Christmas at my house this year. Then we were going to Barcelona in the new year. We’d never been on holiday together so it was going to be our first one.”
Fighting back tears she added: “I don’t think I’ll ever get over him.”
It was the early hours of Saturday when Rhiannon received a call from Matthew’s distraught mum, Margaret, explaining what had happened.
“I was less than an hour away; my uncle drove me straight to the hospital ... but Matthew wasn’t alive when I got there. I can’t even describe how I felt.”
The couple, who met at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2016 and both worked for the same company, had been together for 18 months and had talked about spending the rest of their lives together.
“He was always talking about us getting married, it was all he would talk about to the guys at work and his family,” she said.
“We both shared the dream of moving back to Northern Ireland to build our own house and make a home together.”
But it wasn’t to be. That Friday Rhiannon received the last-ever communication from him just minutes before he was ruthlessly mown down by a driver who callously fled the scene.
“He’d texted me a few times, but I told him I didn’t want him to feel as though he had to message me all the time but he sent me one about 10 minutes before it happened,” she said.
“We’d been talking about the beer festival he was at.
“I sent a message back saying it sounded interesting but he never replied...”
Rhiannon, who described Matthew as the “love of my life” and “the best person I’ve ever known”, said she doesn’t know how she’s going to get through the dark days that lie ahead.
“He was not only my best friend, he was my one and only. We did everything together,” she said.
“He was kind and caring and he was so funny. He made sure that everything was always perfect for me, and he always made sure I was safe and never in harm’s way.
“He was such a gentleman. He wouldn’t let me walk on the outside of the pavement. He always opened the door.
“He always had his arm around me or he was holding my hand. He was always in contact with me. We were really in love.
“Everyone kept teasing us about being in the honeymoon period but it never ended. I’m still as in love with him as the first day I met him.”
Friends of Matthew told how he loved to jive, and Rhiannon admitted that it was a dance he had been teaching her in the run up to his premature death.
“We were always dancing in the kitchen at home. Any excuse and he’d twirl me around, even on the pavement when we were walking in town,” she said.
Rhiannon said she didn’t believe in love at first sight until she met Matthew, whose family — parents Donal and Margaret and sisters Claire, Roisin and Megan — she described as “incredible”.
“I feel so honoured to even know them and to be considered part of their family,” she said. “For the first nine months of our relationship we were long distance so I spent every other weekend at his house.
“I consider Glenavy as my second home.”
She added: “My parents feel they’ve lost a member of the family. Although we weren’t engaged or married yet they saw him as a son-in-law.”
Joe O’Boyle, from St Joseph’s GAA club where Matthew used to play, said: “It’s awful that the Bradleys have had to suffer a second tragedy.”
Matthew’s lifelong friend Chris Prior (24), who went to Aquinas Diocesan Grammar School with him, said he “looked up to Matthew as a role model” and is “heartbroken as they had so much more to accomplish in life”.
Carryduff Car Meets (CCM), a car enthusiast group of which Matthew was a member, will hold a special tribute evening on Thursday, with a book of condolence open for friends to sign that will then be passed on to Matthew’s family.
CCM’s Emma Murray said Matthew was a “good friend” and “really lovely guy” who’d belonged to the club for four years until he moved to England.
“He loved his cars, he loved his friends and he loved to jive,” she said.
She added: “Matthew will be sorely missed. We really loved and cared for him. We’re so sorry for his loss and if there’s anything we can do for his family and friends, we’ll be there.”
An investigation by Merseyside Police is under way and the car believed to have been involved in the collision has been found and forensically examined. Anyone with information can contact police on 0151 777 5747 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.