Man admits being driver of stolen car in fatal crash outside cemetery

The scene of the fatal crash outside Belfast City Cemetery last August. Credit: Presseye

A man has admitting stealing a car and a crashing it outside Belfast City Cemetery a year ago, killing 70-year-old great-grandfather Seamus Conlon.

Michael Loughran, 33 – whose address was given as Maghaberry Prison – appeared before Belfast Crown Court via videolink on Tuesday.

He pleaded guilty to six offences, including causing death by dangerous driving, aggravated vehicle taking causing death, driving without insurance causing death and driving while unfit.

Loughran denied a further two charges, namely driving with no insurance and possession of the Class A drug cocaine.

Judge Geoffrey Miller QC was told this may not require a trial and should not stand in the way of sentencing.

The victim Seamus Conlon had just attended a funeral at the City Cemetery when he was stuck by a silver Vauxhall Vectra on the Whiterock Road on 3 August 2019.

Seamus Conlon died after being hit by the stolen car as he left a funeral at Belfast City Cemetery. Credit: Family photo

A Crown barrister asked that the court view footage from the day of the incident.

He said: “The fatal collision is not captured in any footage, but the earlier driving is, on two occasions.”

The prosecutor added: “The court will get a better feel for the accused’s condition and attitude.

“There is some body-worn footage from within the Landrover after he was arrested, which I think will inform the court.”

Monday’s court hearing was also attended remotely by members of Mr Conlon’s family.

They heard Loughran’s barrister apologise on his client’s behalf for “the consequences of his actions and the death of their loved one”.

The defence barrister added: “I appreciate that what I’m saying probably will have little or no consolation to the Conlon family and I understand the very tangible anger and loss they must feel...

“But I wanted to indicate on his (Loughran’s) behalf his deep regret for what has happened and what he has done.”

We’ve not been able to grieve properly because this has been hanging over our heads. We got a bit of justice today, but it will never bring my daddy back. The way he was taken from us was just horrendous.

Geraldine Conlon, victim’s daughter

The court heard that, while the Conlon family are conscious of the difficulties due to the current Covid-19 situation, they have requested that some relatives are allowed to physically attend court for Loughran’s sentencing.

No date was fixed for sentence, but Judge Miller expressed the hope that it would take place at the end of September or early October.

The case was listed for mention on 21 August, and Loughran was remanded back into custody.

Mr Conlon’s daughter Geraldine Conlon expressed relief at Monday’s plea, but said her family had been left traumatised by her father’s untimely death.

“Our lives will never be the same again, without him,” she said.

“We’re all angry at having to sit and listen to it at home. It’s not the same as attending court. But we’re relieved that he admitted it.”

When asked about Loughran’s apology, she said: “No. We’re not accepting it.

“This has been going on for a year. He was caught at the scene. We thought it would have been done and dusted before now.”

Ms Conlon revealed that her father only became a great-grandfather for the first time a month before he died.

“Him and my mum Kay were together from they were 15. Last year, the two of them hit 70, and all she has now are photos of him,” she added.

“It was the first anniversary of his death last week. It’s a terrible loss for all of us, but for her it’s worse.”