Northern Ireland

Fatal Cookstown crash: Accused says 'it's not my fault'

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 standing in a road and causing a fatal car crash has said he's sorry someone died, but insisted the accident was not his fault.

Jonathan Ferguson was giving evidence at Dungannon Crown Court on Thursday where he is charged with manslaughter.

Mr Ferguson, from Elm Park in Moneymore, had been on his stag do on the night of the alleged incident.

The 30-year-old denies unlawfully killing Bernie McNicholl three-and-a-half years ago.

She was a front seat passenger in a car which struck a tree on the Moneymore Road on 12 April, 2015.

The driver, Denise Mackle, said she had to swerve to avoid hitting a man.

Ms Mackle added the man was standing in the middle of the unlit road, with his arms out, trying to stop traffic.

Mr Ferguson was then arrested nearby.

He said at no time was he at the point where the accident occurred and he had played no part in the circumstances that led to the crash.

'I was never on that road'

Under cross examination by a prosecution barrister Mr Ferguson was asked if he might have been flagging down cars.

He replied: "It's possible but I don't know".

He denied he was the man Denise Mackle said she had swerved to avoid insisting, "that's not correct, that wasn't me. I was never on that road".

The prosecution barrister replied: "You stepped out of the darkness in dark clothing. What she did was avoid killing you. You saw her swerve and hit a tree and knew at the time it was your fault."

Each time Mr Ferguson said: "It wasn't me". He repeated "I was never on the Moneymore Road in the first place".

He later added: "I feel sorry for the family but it's not my fault. I feel sorry someone has died."

Image caption The crash happened on the Moneymore to Cookstown road

The trial heard Mr Ferguson had consumed 10 to 20 pints or bottles of beer, five to 10 shorts and five shots during his stag do.

Under questioning from his defence barrister, he said it was a typical stag do.

While he couldn't say how much he had to drink he said: "I know I was drunk."

Mr Ferguson agreed with a suggestion from the prosecution that the amount he had to drink that day was "enormous".

'Sobered up a bit'

However he added that he had "sobered up a bit" after falling asleep at this father's house.

The accused said he turned off the Moneymore Road and walked along the Tamlaghtmore Road as it was "safer".

He added: "The pathway continues on down that road and there's lights and houses and very little traffic."

Mr Ferguson said he came to a house with two white pillars, adding, "I stopped for a bit and nodded off," but he couldn't say how long he was asleep.

He told the court he woke up and continued to walk while calling taxis and it was then that he was stopped by police.

He said the first time he knew there had been a crash was "when the police officer took me there".

He denied a suggestion by the prosecution that he was trying to hide on the Tamlaghtmore Road.

Image caption Memorial to Bernie McNicholl, Moneymore Road, Cookstown

The 30-year-old insisted it was not a lie made up to try and avoid responsibility for what happened.

In police interviews he had said he had fallen asleep "in the muck" at the entrance to a house, and had not heard any collision.

The trial has heard nine calls were made to five taxi firms from the defendant's mobile phone at the time of the accident.

Under cross examination Ferguson said he had made calls before falling asleep, and at least one after waking up.

He had suggested in police interviews he would be "out cold" when asleep while drunk, but on Thursday claimed that while he didn't know how long he was sleeping for it could have been "moments".

He said it had not been his intention to create the impression he was in a deep sleep and denied that he had made up a story about sleeping to try and cover up what had happened.

The trial is due to resume on Monday.

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