06 April 2006

Our family has been torn apart and we'll never get over it

Belfast Telegraph

By Lisa Smyth
06 April 2006

The mother of one of the children killed by double death driver Wayne Johnston today said she feared her surviving son will never come to terms with the horrific smash.

Darren Shaw (15) was left fighting for his life following the same accident that claimed the life of his 11-year-old brother Christopher and family friend, Emma Lynch (8) in December 2003.

In an emotional interview with the Belfast Telegraph, Martine Shaw said her family had been devastated by the accident, but stressed that she felt Darren had been worst affected by the tragedy.

"Our family has been torn apart and we'll never get over it. People say it gets easier with time, but it actually gets harder," she said.

"My daughter Claire cries every day and Darren lost his best friend, but he keeps it all inside. The kids have seen how upset we have been and I think they're afraid to tell us how they are feeling.

"I'm terrified it will all get too much for Darren one day and he will go off and we will lose him too."

Following the gruelling hearing on Friday, when Johnston was jailed for five years after three hours of legal submissions, an ambulance was called for Darren after he began to hyperventilate.

"His eyes rolled to the back of his head and he told us he just wanted to be with Christopher," said a tearful Martine.

She did reveal, however, that Darren had watched footage of his brother's funeral for the first time after Johnston was sentenced - she feels this is an important step in his recovery, as he was critically ill when Christoper was laid to rest and unable to attend the service.

The family are outraged at the sentence handed out to Johnston - particularly in light of claims by sisters Wilma Gray and Adeline Irwin who say they were victims of a hit-and-run accident in south Belfast 25 years ago in which Johnston was at the wheel.

Although Wilma was not seriously injured, Adeline sustained a broken femur and ankle and horrific internal injuries - leaving her scarred for life.

The pair made a statement to police during the trial of 45-year-old Johnston after they realised he was the same man who knocked them before fleeing the scene 25 years ago.

Although Johnston was convicted of reckless driving in relation to the incident, it was not recorded and the judge could not take the details into consideration when passing his sentence.

"They made Johnston out to be a law-abiding citizen in court, but how can he be when you hear what he did to Wilma and Adeline," asked Martine.

"The defence said he was full of remorse, but I didn't see one pick of remorse out of him. How could he be remorseful when he pleaded not guilty and we had to sit and listen to coroners' reports, witness statements, every last gruesome detail of what happened to our children?

"I'm just so full of anger. Sitting in court, I felt like my head was going to explode. I felt like jumping off a bridge."

Martine said the family was delighted when the jury returned the guilty verdict after just 15 minutes.

"We thought our battle was over. It showed us how easily the jury saw through his lies, and then he gets away with five years. I don't know much about the legal system but I'm going to look into getting the sentence increased."

Her husband, Michael, who was with the children on the night of the accident and was also injured when the group was hit by Johnston's car, said he will never forgive the man responsible for causing his family so much misery.

"If he had been a man about it, if he had stood up and said, 'I did it, I'm sorry', but he didn't and we still don't know what actually happened that night," he said.

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