04 April 2006

Car killer mowed us down too, say sisters

Belfast Telegraph

By Lisa Smyth
04 April 2006

Double death driver Wayne Johnston hospitalised a woman for six months after an almost identical accident to the one that killed two children and left another fighting for his life, it was claimed today.

Sisters Wilma Gray and Adeline Irwin, who say they were mowed down by Johnston outside their family home in south Belfast 25 years ago, decided to speak about their ordeal in an effort to highlight what they regard as failings in the judicial system.

Johnston was jailed for five years on Friday after a jury took just 15 minutes to find him guilty of two counts of death by dangerous driving and a further count of causing GBI by dangerous driving.

Christopher Shaw (11), and Emma Lynch (8), were killed and Darren Shaw, aged 13 at the time, was left in a critical condition after being knocked down as they walked on the Springfield Road in west Belfast on December 19, 2003.

The accident sent shockwaves throughout the province and Adeline said as soon as she heard the name of the man who had been charged, she was convinced it was the same person who knocked her down 25 years earlier.

"I remember watching the news and hearing about this terrible accident and thinking how awful it was because it had happened so close to Christmas," she said.

"When I heard Johnston's name, I just froze and then I worked the age and was sure it had to be the same person.

"We used to live near him and I still have relatives in south Belfast so I rang them and they were able to tell me it was the same man."

Adeline, who was 28 years old at the time of the accident, was left with a broken femur and ankle and extensive internal injuries.

Following the accident, which bears striking similarities to the one that killed Christopher and Emma, Adeline spent six months in hospital and has undergone corrective surgery to her left knee. She still suffers pain and bears extensive physical scars to this day.

Although Johnston was originally charged with dangerous driving, the women said they were left astonished when the charge was reduced to reckless driving on the day he appeared in court without any consultation with them.

"No one even listened to our story and he walked out with a £100 fine," said Wilma.

"We came forward during the trial and told the police about what happened to us 25 years earlier but it was decided the judge couldn't consider it as evidence.

"The judicial system needs to be changed and that's why we are speaking out now. Maybe if Johnston had been dealt with more severely 25 years ago, the kids would be alive today."

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