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Driver accused of fatally running over man tells of 'panic' in car

A YOUNG man accused of running over and killing a man told gardai he was wrong when he thought the victim was threatening him, a trial has heard.

Dara O'Sullivan (22) said he felt scared and threatened when he saw Liam Stafford (28) and his friend jumping on to the roof of his parked car in the middle of the night.

The trial has previously heard evidence that the car then "tore off" and Mr Stafford slipped under the front of the car.

O'Sullivan of Clonard Road, Sandyford, Dublin, has pleaded not guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of Mr Stafford at Clonard Lawns, Sandyford, on November 8, 2009.

At Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, O'Sullivan told Patrick McGrath, defending, that he and his three friends were panicking inside the car because they thought the men outside were attacking them.

He said he thought one of the men was looking at him through the window of the car before he jumped up on to the car.

James Clarke, a friend of Mr Stafford, previously gave evidence that he thought the car was empty.

The court heard O'Sullivan locked the car using central locking but that he wasn't sure all the doors were locked because it was an old car.

He said he then turned the car engine on, put it into gear and drove off. He said he stopped after he saw Mr Stafford slip down the front of the car. He said this all happened in a matter of seconds.

He said he never considered getting out of the car, saying: "Getting out was the last thing we wanted to do. I was afraid of the people outside the car."

He agreed with Mr McGrath that "the actions of the three men which you described as threatening were misinterpreted by you in the heat of the moment, in a panic".

Garda Sergeant Robert Lacky said O'Sullivan said he thought Mr Stafford would jump off the car when he started the engine.

The trial continues.