'I'll never forget children's screams when told their dad had been killed,' says mum
THE widow of a cyclist killed by a hit-and-run driver has told a court she will never forget the cries of her four children when she told them their dad was dead.
Margaret O'Leary was giving her victim impact statement at the sentencing hearing of Shane Fitzgerald (23, right), who was jailed for six-and-a-half years for dangerous driving causing the death of Paud O'Leary at Scrahanfadda, Gneeveguilla, Co Kerry, on July 1, 2012.
Mr O'Leary (42) was killed shortly after 5am about 1.2km from his home while on a training ride for the Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle.
Fitzgerald, of Upper Knockeen, Knockduff, Meelin, Co Cork, who was convicted last month, admitted his guilt for the first time in a probation reported submitted to the court.
He left for the UK within 24 hours of the accident, applied for an Australian visa the following day and flew to Australia on July 12. He was arrested at Heathrow Airport, on foot of an international warrant, as he tried to board a plane for Australia in February 2014.
He had been spotted at an auction in Cambridge two days earlier by a member of the public who notified the gardai.
Judge Thomas E O'Donnell suspended the final 18 months of the sentence and backdated it to March. He disqualified Fitz- gerald from driving for 10 years
In her victim impact statement, Mrs O'Leary said all her children had depended on her husband so much, but all that changed on July 1, 2012. She said that three days later, her daughter Antoinette, who has Down Syndrome, turned 12 on the day her father was buried.
"Paud took up cycling when Antoinette was born and did the Ring of Kerry Cycle 10 years in a row to honour not only Antoinette but every child born with a disability," she said.
Her other children - Ross, Paud and Shannon - were aged seven, nine and 14 at the time.
"Paud loved his children so much, they were his life. He had a saying, 'I'm like a mother and a father to ye'. This was very true" his wife said.
Mrs O'Leary added that it would have been some small consolation if her husband's organs had been donated, but this was not possible as he had been in a ditch for eight hours.
"I have lost my companion, the man I thought I would grow old with and the father of my four children," she said.
"All we ever wanted was the truth. We all accept accidents happen, but we can never accept that at no point did anyone ever own up or admit their involvement in the death of Paud."
Imposing sentence, Judge O'Donnell said he had to take account of the aggravating circumstances that included the "appalling amount of alcohol" Fitzgerald had consumed, the deliberate lies that were laid bare by the CCTV coverage and the concealment of the vehicle.
Gardai searched a number of remote locations and sheds associated with the Fitzgerald family but failed to recover the grey Toyota Land Cruiser.
Judge O'Donnell said Fitzgerald had also shown a lack of concern up until the day of sentencing.