Man jailed for 10 years for killing mourner at Belfast cemetery crash

Seamus Conlon, 70, was struck and killed by a stolen car after attending a funeral at Belfast City Cemetery.

A 33-year old man, whose dangerous and drunken driving in a stolen car killed a west Belfast great-grandfather, has been sentenced to ten years in jail.Michael Loughran will serve an additional three years on licence when he is released.Following a drink-and-drugs binge, Loughran stole his uncle's silver Vauxhall Vectra at around 10.30am on Saturday 3 August last year.

After driving dangerously on several roads in west Belfast for around an hour and a half, he lost control of the car and killed 70-year old Seamus Conlon.The popular pensioner had just attended a funeral in the City Cemetery when he was struck and killed on the Whiterock Road.Loughran was detained at the scene after attempting to flee and in the aftermath of the fatal collision, displayed behaviour described by Judge Stephen Fowler QC as "provocative and shameful."As he sentenced Loughran to ten years, with an extended period of three years on licence, Judge Fowler noted that Loughran has continued to take drugs in prison.

Speaking outside Belfast Crown Court after sentence was passed, Mr Conlon's daughter Geraldine said: "I'm pleased with the outcome, but it will not bring my Daddy back."Flanked by relatives who wore t-shirts bearing Mr Conlon's image, Geraldine and her brother Seamus spoke of the impact their father's death has had on the family circle.When asked about the length of the sentence handed to their father's killer, Seamus said: "Nothing will ever be long enough, but we're just glad it's ever."His sister Geraldine revealed their father suffered from diabetes and had overcome two heart attacks and cancer before he was killed.

She said: "We never expected him to be taken like that. We thought it would be his heart or skin cancer - not to be wiped out in a stolen car."

From the day it happened, our lives have never been the same. But at least we can start to grieve properly now. We can put this chapter behind us and and start grieving as a family.

Geraldine, Seamus Conlon's daughter

Loughran - a father of two whose address was given as Maghaberry - appeared at the hearing via videolink from prison.He was sentenced for seven offences, including causing Mr Conlon's death by dangerous driving, driving whilst unfit, aggravating vehicle taking causing death and causing death by driving without a licence.Judge Fowler said it was clear Loughran's life had been "chaotic" and that he started drinking in his teens. Revealing Loughran was still taking drugs in prison, the Judge said he failed a drugs test last November, and refused to undergo a second test this August.He was deemed as presenting a significant risk to the public by Probation and was considered to be a dangerous offender by Judge Fowler.Due to this finding, Loughran will not be automatically released on licence after completing half his sentence. Instead, he will be assessed by the Paroles Commission, and may not be suitable for release until he has served the whole ten years.Once released, he will spend an additional period of three years on licence - and will be subject to recall during that period. He was also banned from driving for seven years.During the sentencing, Judge Fowler said Loughran has expressed remorse for what he did. When asked if she accepted this, Geraldine Conlon said: "We didn't accept it then and we don't accept it now. He knew what he did. The day he got into that car, he knew what he was doing."She said she will remember her father for his jokes, laughter, and the love he showed to his family and that "he's really really badly missed by everybody."

  • Video report by UTV Correspondent Sharon O'Neill: