Northern Ireland

Fatal Cookstown crash: Accused was 'calm' after accident

Bernie McNicholl Image copyright McNicholl family
Image caption Bernie McNicholl died after the car she was travelling in hit a tree

A man accused of causing a fatal car crash by standing in the road appeared calm and spoke coherently to police after the accident, a court has heard.

Jonathan Ferguson, 30, of Elm Park, Moneymore denies unlawfully killing Bernie McNicholl.

She was a front-seat passenger in a car that swerved and struck a tree on the Moneymore Road in April 2015.

The driver, Denise Mackle, said she took evasive action to avoid hitting a man standing in the unlit road.

She told the court he had his arms out, trying to stop traffic.

The manslaughter trial, at Dungannon Crown Court, heard evidence from police officers who attended the incident.

Image caption Memorial to Bernie McNicholl, Moneymore Road, Cookstown

One officer said he saw a man, lit by his mobile phone, at a gateway into a field on the Tamlaghtmore Road, a short distance from the scene of the crash.

He said the defendant told him he had been trying to get a taxi home to Moneymore and had fallen asleep.

Another officer who spoke to Mr Ferguson said he seemed calm, not overly intoxicated and said he asked her: "Why are there so many police?"

Mr Ferguson was arrested on suspicion of leaving a dangerous article in the road.

One officer recalled seeing him in the back of the police car rubbing his left elbow.

'Asleep in a field'

An inspection of Mr Ferguson's mobile phone use immediately before and after the collision, found seven calls from 02:17 BST and 02:40.

The collision, which caused the death of Mrs McNicholl, occurred at about 02:35.

The prosecution contend this was inconsistent with Mr Ferguson's claims he had "asleep in a field" prior to the incident.

Image caption The crash happened on the Moneymore to Cookstown road

Earlier, a forensic scientist had told the trial that the front tyres of the car were in poor condition.

He said that one of the tyres did not have the legal minimum tread depth and the tyre pressure was low.

In his opinion, this did not contribute to the crash but would have made it more difficult to regain control.

He also said there was very strong evidence that the passenger-side wing mirror had hit an object on the Moneymore-bound carriageway.

He said the mirror appeared to have been driven over by a vehicle after the collision.

The trial continues.

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