Mum wants answers over Claire's death

The mother of a Dungiven woman killed by a drunk driver has called for an independent investigation into the events leading up to her daughter's death.

Friday, 29th April 2016, 11:00 am
Updated Friday, 29th April 2016, 11:54 am
Claire Kelly

Denise McAuley has also called on Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, to consider his position.

Ms. McAuley’s 20-years-old daughter, Claire, was a passenger in a car driven by a drunk driver which was pursued by police after speeding off from a checkpoint in the village of Feeny in December, 2011. The car later crashed into a field and overturned, trapping Claire inside. She later died in hospital.

A Police Ombudsman’s investigation identified no causal link between the way the police car was driven by ‘Officer A’ and Miss Kelly’s death.

Last month, the High Court heard a claim that Police Ombudsman reports into the pursuit - containing recommendations from three separate investigators - were concealed from Claire’s family.

Ms. McAuley has now called for an independent investigation.

“I was given assurances by the Police Ombudsman that the police car had no causal link in Claire’s death, but now, reading all the reports, I can’t hold the Police Ombudsman’s report as valid,” said Ms. McAuley. “It’s my daughter, my memories. I wish I wasn’t on this journey, but I have no choice and I will never give up. There are questions to be answered and I will continue on until the truth comes out.”

Ms. McAuley has requested to meet with the First Minister, Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, to discuss her concerns. Ms. McAuley said Martin McGuinness has already indicated he will meet with her. The Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland say the issues raised by Ms. McAuley have been passed to the Department of Justice for investigation.

The driver of the car Claire was travelling in pleaded guilty to causing her death by careless driving, drink-driving and having no insurance. He was handed a three-year sentence and disqualified from driving for five years.

When Ms McAuley’s concerns were put to the Police Ombudsman’s Office, a spokesperson said: “Claire’s death was tragic and untimely and the circumstances merited and received a thorough and detailed investigation.

“However, the family have raised a number of issues about the investigation process.

Given the sensitivity of those matters, and the family’s understandable desire for an independent assessment of the issues, the Office has referred the matter to the Department of Justice for investigation in line with our internal complaints policy.

“In the circumstances, it would not be appropriate to pre-empt the findings of that review. The Ombudsman looks forward to any observations or recommendations the Department have to make and will respond fully at the appropriate time.”

A Department of Justice spokesperson said: “The Department does not discuss the particulars of individual cases, however, we can confirm that a matter has recently been brought to the attention of the Department by the Police Ombudsman.”

Ms McAuley added: “I hope the Department of Justice will investigate and it will be a fair and honest investigation. Claire’s death hasn’t been fairly dealt with and I feel like I’m back at square one.”