A WESTPORT family, whose son was tragically killed when the motorcycle he was driving was struck from behind by a car two years ago, have issued a public plea to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Michael McDowell, to reconsider his decision not to establish an independent inquiry into the Garda handling of the investigation of the circumstances that led to his death.
Kevin McAndrew died on October 25, 2004, eleven days after his motorcycle was struck from behind as he prepared to turn right on the Westport to Castlebar road. The pillion passenger on the motor cycle, Conor Heraty, a friend of the deceased, made a full recovery from the injuries he received.
The family remain shocked and angry at the fact that the Garda investigation file only arrived in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions on April 14, 2005; one day after the period for bringing a summary prosecution had expired.
There are also a number of other questions to which they are seeking answers.
“We want to know why it took so long to interview some witnesses. Statements weren’t taken for four months in one case. We feel that there should have been far greater urgency in a case where someone lost their life,’’ Kevin McAndrew’s mother, Kathleen, told The Mayo News this week.
Mrs McAndrew, along with her husband John, have been campaigning for the past 18 months for an independent inquiry.
“There are so many unanswered questions. There are discrepancies in the statements. For example, the driver of the car stated that it was wet and he had to use his wipers, but the investigating guard said it was a dry night. We need to know how exhaustive the investigation was,’’ said Mr McAndrew.
Mrs McAndrew said her family wants the truth to come out.
“We owe it to our son that the whole truth go into the public domain as to how he died. We’re not seeking vengeance or we don’t wish to see the driver of the car being punished; we just want the whole truth to come out. We know that no matter what happens Kevin won’t come back to us, but we feel this is something that we must do for him,’’ said Mrs McAndrew.
The family have been backed in their campaign by the Senator and MEP, Mr Jim Higgins. He has been working with the family to get an independent inquiry established.
“Two weeks ago we were told by the Minister for Justice that he would not be setting up an inquiry so at that stage we felt there was little other option open to us than to go public with the issue,’’ he said.
Mr Higgins said that the late gathering of evidence was no excuse for the late submission of the file to the DPP.
“Furthermore, the file on the case clearly points to significant discrepancies between the statements of the investigating garda at the accident scene and other witnesses. Yet, these were not followed up. There is also, for example, the totally unfounded assumption that Kevin’s helmet and that of his pillion passenger were too large; nothing could be further from the truth.
“Kevin was a bright, intelligent and road conscious young man. I am adamant that the McAndrew family have a serious and legitimate grievance and I am in full support of their determination that no stone be left un-turned in order to have the whole matter re-opened,’’ he said.
The Mayo News sought clarification on a number of issues that arose from the Garda investigation from Superintendent Pat Doyle of the Westport Garda Station. The matters raised related to the family concerns about issues such as the delay in gathering statements and the discrepancies in the statements. On Monday night Supt Doyle issued the following statement: “The first thing I want to say is that my sympathy, and that of the entire Garda force in Westport, goes to the McAndrew family on the tragic loss of their son, Kevin. It’s the worst possible nightmare for any family to have to endure and no words of ours will ease their pain. In relation to what happened on October 14, 2004, the accident was investigated and a file was submitted to the DPP who gave a direction in the case. The DPP directions were complied with. The driver of the car did appear in court in May of 2005 charged with an offence relating to the case and I pointed out that a fatality had occurred because of the collision. I would have no difficulty whatsoever providing clarification on the issues raised by your questions, but the matter is currently the subject of a complaint to the Garda Complaints Board and because of that and because due process must be followed I am prohibited from making any further comment on the matter.’’