A Cork man drove aggressively through a red light killing a French man in Cork city, then drove off and fled the country, and today he was jailed for eight years and banned from driving for 40 years.
Gardaí got an anonymous tip in July that Martin Linehan was working on a building site in London. He was arrested on a European arrest warrant and brought back to Cork. Detective Garda Anne O’Flynn charged him with multiple counts, principally one of dangerous driving causing the death of Gabriel Lege at George’s Quay on October 31, 2013.
He pleaded guilty today and was sentenced at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said: “Normally the dead have no one to speak for them but there are a number of relevant witnesses to the facts here and CCTV.”
The judge saw the 25-year-old French man was lawfully crossing a pedestrian crossing with the green light in his favour when the accused broke a red light and drove in a somewhat aggressive manner and collided with the pedestrian whom he must have seen.
“After, in what is a seriously aggravating factor, he did not stop. The vehicle front and back rolled over the deceased. The person in the passenger seat asked him to stop. He certainly did not stop. His behaviour then and after is entirely the behaviour of a person who had only one consideration – himself.
“He drove to his former place of work, changed cars, went to Coachford for more drink and to play pool. Where in that scenario can I find remorse? I cannot… The manner in which he left the scene is chilling to the point of frightening, that he could have so much disregard for another human being.”
The judge referred to his callous decision-making in taking a circuitous route out of the country and as a foot passenger by ferry from Larne, Co. Antrim, to Scotland, later jumping bail for another offence in the UK and travelling to South Africa and Dubai and back to England.
Judge Ó Donnabháin said that on one occasion when contacted by gardaí by phone to interview him in relation to this fatal case he refused to co-operate. The judge said Linehan was motivated by the self-preservation that was with him from the night of the fatal incident.
The judge said the callous regard for the deceased was aggravated by staying out of the country for so long.
Detective Garda Anne O’Flynn said that despite being a disqualified driver back in October 2013 the accused had been working as a courier until his employer sacked him a week before the fatal incident.
The accused was not charged with drink-driving, but on the evidence gathered by the detective it was established that he had 15 or 16 pints of beer between noon and 9.30pm on October 31, 2013. He also smoked cannabis and snorted cocaine.
The deceased, Gabriel Lege, was working in Apple and living at an apartment in the Elysian. He had dinner with a friend on Nicholas Street and had two small measures of whiskey at the meal. He walked from here at around 9.30pm and went to cross with the green light at the pedestrian crossing by George’s Quay and Copley Street.
Several other pedestrians had to jump out of the way as Linehan drove his van through the junction, breaking the red light and with tyres screeching.
“He hit him, rolled over him and drove off. He (the deceased) was struck and shouted before slipping under the van. It did not slow down, it increased speed. It rolled over him with both front and rear wheels,” Det. Garda O’Flynn said.
Linehan’s front seat passenger later told gardaí the injured party was clinging to the bonnet of the van and he (the passenger) pleaded with the Linehan to stop the van.
The accused drove to his former place of work, abandoned the van, picked up his Lexus car and drove to his native Coachford where he had one or two more drinks with his passenger and got into a fight.
“The car was captured on CCTV doing donuts (high speed spinning turns) in the village that night,” the detective said.
Tom Creed senior counsel read a letter from the accused in which he expressed “how deeply sorry I am for causing the death of Gabriel. I was controlled by drink and drugs. I did not understand the power of my addiction.”
He said his hope at the completion of his sentence was to help others struggling with addiction so that maybe some other family won't have to go through what the family of the late Mr Lege had endured.
“I would give anything to change what happened that night. I have no friends who want to know me. I believe that is what I deserve. I have lost my family. I am truly sorry for fleeing the country.”
He said he wished there was some way he could take the family’s pain away and said there was not a day he did not think of the deceased and pray for his family.
Det. Garda O’Flynn said the accused had a partner and two children in Cork at the time of the fatal incident. Since fleeing the country he got married to a woman he met three years ago and they now have a child and another one on the way. A letter was written to the court from his new partner in which she said her husband had nightmares about what he did that night, but she said he was no longer taking drink and drugs.
The detective said the accused had never shown any sign of remorse. Her colleague, Det. Garda Sharon Sweeney was in the witness box to read the deceased’s mother’s victim impact statement and Mr Creed SC said the accused had handed over a letter of apology for the family. Det. Garda Sweeney was asked by the judge about the family’s view of this and she replied: “I don’t think anything in relation to this man gives them any consolation.”