herald

Monday 29 May 2017

Secret day release for driver who killed eight in Donegal horror crash

Shaun Kelly was pictured tending to sheep in Tooban
Shaun Kelly was pictured tending to sheep in Tooban

The man jailed for killing eight people in Ireland's worst ever single road traffic crash is enjoying secret days out from prison.

Shaun Kelly was initially jailed for two years when he pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing the deaths in Buncrana, Co Donegal, on July 12, 2010.

However, the Appeal Court decided that sentence was too lenient and added another two years to his sentence, originally handed down in December 2014.

Kelly (27), from Ballymagan in Buncrana, is not due for release until December 2018, but may be entitled to 25pc remission for good behaviour.

Seven of those who died were young men aged between 19 and 23, who were passengers in Kelly's car.

The eighth was a 66-year-old man on his way back from bingo.

Now relatives of some of those killed in the horror smash have been left shocked after the young truck driver was granted temporary release from jail.

Kelly was pictured laughing and joking with two friends while farming at Tooban on the Inishowen Peninsula.

He wore a grey hoodie and jeans as he tended to sheep.

The men arrived in a VW Passat. Kelly was not driving as he is also serving a ten-year driving ban as part of his sentence.

It is understood Kelly spent the rest of the time after his release on Friday in and around his home at Hill Head, Ballymagan.

Punish

The families of those who were killed in the horrific crash are split on Kelly's future.

During his case at Letterkenny Circuit Court, some families appealed to Judge John O'Hagan not to punish Kelly.

Others remained silent and did not speak up on his behalf.

One family member said they were outraged by Kelly's release.

They said they had not been informed by prison authorities but learned about it from another family.

"It just doesn't make sense. He's only halfway through his sentence and he's allowed out. We didn't know anything about it until we got a phone call from one of the other families telling us," said the family member.

"The Appeal Court knew this was so serious that they doubled his sentence to four years and yet here he is coming and going among us after just two years.

"Things are still very raw that the court case dragged on for so long and that he didn't start his sentence until more than five years after he killed all those people.

"Some people will say that we have to move on but how would they feel if they saw the man who killed their brother or son back in their town when he was only halfway through his punishment?"

The crash resulted in the deaths of eight men: Eamonn McDaid (22); Mark McLaughlin (21); Paul Doherty (19); Ciaran Sweeney (19); PJ McLaughlin (21); James McEleney (23); Damien McLaughlin (21); and Hugh Friel (66).

An inquest held in February 2016 returned a verdict of unlawful killing consistent with dangerous driving.

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