Widow of cyclist calls on man to reveal hit-and-run vehicle
Vehicle that killed father-of-four Paud O’Leary near Killarney has never been found
Margaret O’Leary and her daughter Shannon on their way out of Tralee Court. Photograph: Domnick Walsh
The widow of a 42-year-old cyclist who was killed in an early morning hit-and-run accident near his home has called on the man convicted of his death to say what he did with the vehicle which has never been found.
Paud O’Leary’s body was found eight hours after he was struck by a large Toyota Landcruiser at Scrahan Fada, Gneeveguilla, near Killarney at around 5am on July 1st, 2012. The late Mr O’Leary was training for a charity cycle and he and his bicycle had been “blown off the road” through a hedge and onto a deep dyke by the collision.
No vehicle was ever found. However a painstaking investigation by gardaí and forensics experts identified it as a dark grey Toyota Landcruiser belonging to Shane Fitzgerald, then aged 20, of Meelin, Newmarket, Co Cork.
Fitzgerald fled the country within 24 hours .
Margaret O’Leary, who has been left to rear four young children on her own, has called on him to fill in “this piece of the jigsaw” . She said “it is only fair” that she and her family know what Shane Fitzgerald did with the vehicle which killed her husband and which has never been found.
“Where is the jeep?”, Ms O’Leary asked this morning.
Last week at the Circuit Criminal Court in Tralee Fitzgerald was handed down a six and a half year sentence for dangerous driving causing the death of Paud O’Leary, with 18 months of the sentence were suspended.
During a trial spanning four weeks he had denied the charge and put forward no evidence. However at this sentencing hearing last week, Fitzgerald for the first time admitted responsibility.
Tbe early morning hit and run came after a night spent drinking before getting behind the wheel, and the jury were shown hours of CCTV of Fitzgerald out in bars – including one instance where he fell asleep at the bar – before staggering back to his large vehicle.
Judge Thomas E O’Donnell, handing down sentence said the collision “blew Mr O’Leary off the road,” so much so that his body and his bike were some distance behind a hedge.
The charge encompassed the speed and the condition of Shane Fitzgerald’s grey Toyota Landcruiser – a vehicle which had been identified from debris at the accident scene but which had been “concealed” by him.
The vehicle has never been found despite extensive garda searches of sheds, farms and buildings, Inspector Fergal Foley told the trial.
Mr Fitzgerald had not only left the scene, but the day after left for the UK and subsequently Australia where he worked in the mines. He told Australian federal agents he had sold the vehicle in the UK.
Mrs O’Leary yesterday severely criticised the “leniency” of the sentence, which included 10 months off the road. .
She branded the convicted man “ruthless” in what he did to her husband . He had also deprived others of living a better life as her husband was an organ donor but because an ambulance had not been called and he had been left for eight hours his organs could not be used.
She accused the young man of “dancing with the court” at the sentencing hearing and said his admission finally that he was the driver was “a ploy” for leniency.
Courts were not supposed to be about emotion. But at the end of the day, it was “all about emotion,” Ms O’Leary said.
She rejected suggestions by his defence counsel that he had at the time the maturity of a 12-year-old – he was able to go to the UK and to Australia and work there, she said.
“He got rewarded,” Ms O’Leary told Jerry O’Sullivan on Radio Kerry on Thursday morning.
Drunk driving alone carried a penalty of four years off the road – she called for separate penalties for leaving the scene, for having to be extradited and such.