Man sentenced to 14 years for causing fatal car crash

Jillian Thornton (20) ‘never knew Michael Collins until the night he killed her’, sister says

45-year-old Michael Collins, of St Finian’s Park, Drogheda, Co Louth, was found guilty of dangerous driving causing the death of Jillian Thornton on May 27th, 2016 at Waterside, Great Duleek, Co Meath.

45-year-old Michael Collins, of St Finian’s Park, Drogheda, Co Louth, was found guilty of dangerous driving causing the death of Jillian Thornton on May 27th, 2016 at Waterside, Great Duleek, Co Meath.

 

A man convicted of causing a road crash which claimed the life of a 20-year-old woman in Co Meath three years ago was jailed for 14 years at Trim Circuit Court on Wednesday.

Earlier this year, following a 13-day trial, 45-year-old Michael Collins, of St Finian’s Park, Drogheda, Co Louth, was found guilty of dangerous driving causing the death of Jillian Thornton on May 27th, 2016 at Waterside Great, Duleek, Co Meath.

Collins, who defended himself after sacking his legal team at the start of the trial, was also convicted on two charges of endangerment, 12 charges of dangerous driving and driving under the influence of an intoxicant on the same date.

The court heard the defendant was on his way to a music festival in Mullingar on the night with the victim and a friend Alannah Byrne, who survived the fatal crash.

Ms Thornton was killed when she was thrown from the back seat of the defendant’s car, which was split in two when it collided with another car near Ballymagarvey on the N2. This followed a 35-minute garda pursuit which began when Collins failed to stop for gardaí after driving the wrong way on a roundabout at Waterunder, Drogheda and continued through the town and east Meath before he headed north on the N2 towards Slane and then turned back in the Ashbourne direction.

The court was shown CCTV footage of part of the pursuit in Drogheda.

The trial had heard recordings of 999 calls from the passengers in the car claiming the driver was going to crash unless gardaí called off the pursuit. One of the calls made just before the crash ended in a scream.

The court heard Garda evidence of Collins speeding on the wrong side of the road, being involved in near-misses , driving head on at Garda vehicles, travelling without lights and weaving from side to side.

A Garda witness said the defendant appeared to have been playing “chicken” with other motorists.

Collins, who was found to have cannabis in his system on the night, later told gardaí his “head had been melted” and claimed in court he had been in fear for his life at the time, as someone had “put a hit” on him and he did not believe it was gardaí who were following him.

He said he was scared of being shot and believed he was being chased by would-be assassins.

He claimed that at one stage he was being followed by 10 Garda cars, some of which had tried to ram him, and that just before the crash his car was rammed into the other vehicle involved in the collision.

The court heard that later technical and other investigations found no evidence to support this claim.

In victim impact statements read by the victim’s sister Elaine Thornton, the court heard the family’ s whole world fell apart when Jillian Thornton was killed and they suffered ongoing nightmares and could no longer celebrate family occasions.

They condemned the lack of remorse shown by Collins through the course of his trial.

“He’ll get a second chance at life, Jillian never will,” said Elaine Thornton.

The defendant told the hearing he had pleaded not guilty as he wanted the whole case heard.

“I still say I’m not guilty,” he said.

At the sentence hearing, Judge Martina Baxter praised the restraint shown by the gardaí on the night and expressed her sympathy to the Thornton family on their immeasurable loss.

The judge said that Collins had shown a lack of remorse and had a particular delusion about what happened and still blamed everyone but himself.

Judge Baxter sentenced Collins to five years for endangerment and a consecutive term of 10 years for dangerous driving causing death, with the final 12 months suspended.

Meanwhile, the Thornton family has appealed to young people to think twice before getting into a car with someone they do not know.

“Jillian never knew Michael Collins until the night he killed her. She was the type of her person that would trust anyone and that night she was killed she got in the car with that man and in the end she paid with her life,” Elaine Thornton said.

“The reality is we have to live with that, we have to live to with his actions. It’s so hard to try and get it into your head that he killed her, that he took her from us. We are not a family anymore, he took her from us, he took everything from us.”

Jillian Thornton’s mother Lorraine added: “It could have been all stopped if he had only stopped the car, that’s all he had to do, stop the car and let her out because she wanted to get out.”