LETTERKENNY CIRCUIT COURT

Man cleared of killing girlfriend in Ballybofey road crash

There were emotional scenes at Letterkenny Circuit Court on the second day of the triaL

By Staff Reporter

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Man cleared of killing girlfriend in Ballybofey road crash

The late Kym Harley

A young Donegal man charged with causing the death of his girlfriend in a road accident has been cleared after a judge directed a jury to find him not guilty.

There were emotional scenes at Letterkenny Circuit Court on the second day of the trial of Gary O’Donnell (22) who was charged with causing the death of 19-year-old Kym Harley.

Judge John O’Hagan directed the jury to find not guilty after an application from the defence that there was insufficient evidence over the issue of speed.

At the end of the hearing Ms Harley’s mother approached Mr O’Donnell and said: “You’re a liar. She never loved you and she wasn’t getting back with you. You killed her.”

Garda forensic evidence claimed that Gary O'Donnell, Steeple View, Dunwiley, Stranorlar, was driving at more than 94kph when he crashed his Nissan Almera car on October 14th, 2014.

Mr O'Donnell, now aged 22, denied dangerous driving causing the death when the car flipped onto its roof after striking a ditch at Dreenan, Ballybofey around 4.15am. A post mortem found that Ms Harley died from a head injury which was the result of a road traffic accident.

The court heard that the couple had just agreed to give their relationship another go before the fatal collision.

Ms Harley was a daughter of well-known Fine Gael county councillor and

publican Martin Harley and his wife Denise.

Mr O’Donnell claimed that he was not driving fast in the 50kph zone but swerved to avoid two dogs, a black labrador and a beagle.

The second day of the trial heard evidence from retired Garda Sergeant John McFadden who said the road surface was good, weather conditions were good on the night and that O'Donnell's car was in a good working condition.

He added these conditions were not contributory factors to the crash.

He said a series of tests to ascertain the speed which Mr O'Donnell was driving on the night and that he estimated that he was driving at 94.3kph - almost twice the 50kph speed limit on which the road was governed.

He added that he had undertaken driving tests on the road and that the top speed he would safely take the bend close to the crash was 78kph.

"The top speed which you could negotiate it at safely is 78kph and I have driven it myself in test conditions and was comfortable but I would not push it any further," he said.

"In my opinion the vehicle came around the bend too fast," he added.

Sgt McFadden, who actually lives close to the location of the crash, said that Ms Harley was thrown from the vehicle.

Sgt McFadden said the vehicle hit the ditch with such impact that it was flipped back out onto the road.

But the defence claimed that tyre marks used by gardaí to determine the speed of the vehicle, could not be made by the same vehicle.

Expert witness Dr Mark Jordan, a chartered engineer, said there was no relationship between two sets of marks referred to by Sgt McFadden.

He said a gap of 7.5 metres between the two marks indicated to him that the marks were made by two different vehicles.

“I cannot confidently say that they both come from the same vehicle,” he said.

He also disputed a prosecution claim that a 7.5m gap between the two sets of marks was caused by a correction manoeuvre by Mr O’Donnell.

“We are talking about a miracle if he corrected it and did not leave any marks on the road,” he said.

It had been revealed earlier in the trial how neither Mr O'Donnell or Ms Harley were wearing seat-belts on the night. Ms Harley was thrown out of the car.

Mr O'Donnell had purchased the 2003 registered car two or three days before the crash.

The first day of the trial heard that Mr O'Donnell told gardaí said he and Ms Harley had been in a relationship for a year and a half before splitting up two weeks before the fatal crash.

However, they had decided to give it another go and had met up on the night of the crash.

Judge O’Hagan said he would find it difficult to charge the jury “because of the vacuum in the 7.5m between the two tyre marks”.

“I have no doubt that everybody is very, very sad that poor Kym Harley was killed but this case has nothing to do with sympathy - it is about facts,” he said.