An accident investigator has told the trial of Co. Galway farmer, Michael Scott that before she died, the accused’s 76-year-old aunt appeared to have been walking away in an attempt to escape the impending impact of the teleporter that Scott was driving.
The accident investigator, John Hayes, told the trial that a pedestrian would have been “clearly visible” through the back window of the teleporter.
Hayes also said that “flailing” injuries to Scott’s aunt, Chrissie Treacy‘s left arm were consistent with a “very quick” or “aggressive” change in direction from reverse to forward and could be consistent with the rotation of the wheel on her arm.
Scott (58) of Gortanumera, Portumna, Co. Galway has pleaded not guilty to murdering Chrissie Treacy outside her home in Derryhiney, Portumna, Co. Galway on April 27, 2018.
The prosecution case is that Scott deliberately ran over his aunt following a long-running dispute over land.
Scott’s lawyers have said her death was a tragic accident.
In cross-examination accident investigator, John Hayes, agreed that nobody knows if Chrissie Treacy was standing or lying down before Scott reversed over her.
Hayes denied that his report contained speculation or that his evidence in front of the jury was different to what he had written in his report.
He also rejected a suggestion by counsel that he was not qualified to comment on the injury to Chrissie Treacy’s arm.
Hayes told prosecution counsel Dean Kelly SC during the trial that he looked at photographs of Chrissie Treacy’s injuries and formed the view that the flailing injury to her left hand was “not consistent with a vehicle reversing over the deceased, coming to a stop and moving forward.”
He said the injury was consistent with “a far more aggressive action and could be consistent with the rotation of the wheel while on the limb.”
Hayes explained that by “aggressive” he was not commenting on the driver’s intent but on the “high torque” of the vehicle which allowed it to change from reverse to forward “very quickly”.
“The fact the machine rolled over her back would suggest she was walking away from the machine as it approached her in an attempt to escape the impending impact of the vehicle.”
Hayes described what he said were two distinct tracks on Chrissie Treacy’s body suggesting two passings by the teleporter.
Hayes also described a reconstruction that he did, whereby he got a garda wearing a light blue cardigan similar to the one worn by Chrissie Treacy to stand one metre behind the teleporter.
Hayes then took a series of photographs to show what was visible from the seat of the teleporter cabin.
The photos were given to the jury during the trial at the Central Criminal Court.
Hayes said that visibility was “significantly” reduced by dirt and grime on the back window but “a pedestrian with a light blue cardigan would be clearly visible”.
The expert witness also said the left rear view mirror of the teleporter was missing and it was unlikely the driver would have been solely depending on the right hand mirror because it provided very poor visibility.
He said most of the obstructions in the Co. Galway yard were to the driver’s left and it would have been easier to lean out the open window on that side.
To view objects to the rear while reversing, the driver would have to rotate 90 degrees but, he added: “This would be a normal action for an agricultural vehicle driver.”
In his report Hayes wrote that the deceased would have been visible had the driver been keeping a proper lookout and if he had maintained the vehicle in a reasonable condition he would have had a clear panoramic view for 300 degrees with an impeded view to the rear and right.
He said Chrissie Treacy’s only viable route to where she was found was a 45 metre walk from her back door to a driveway and into the yard in Derryhiney, Portumna, Co. Galway.
At a reasonable ambulant walking gait, he said, that journey would take 30 seconds. For a less ambulant gait, it might take 45 seconds.
Hayes also reversed the teleporter over two tyres that he had placed on the ground to get a sense of what would be felt by the driver.
He said the sensation of driving over the tyres would be “acutely noticeable to the operator”.
Hayes said he would have preferred to use a fake cadaver for the test but they cost €150,000.
He said there is a huge amount of research on injuries to pedestrians when colliding with the front of a vehicle but there is no research on the dynamics of an impact between the rear of a teleporter and a human.
In driving over the tyres, he said he was carrying out a subjective test and was not suggesting that the test perfectly mimicked the sensation of driving over a human.
Under cross-examination during the trial Hayes told defence counsel Paul Greene SC that he is an independent expert and does not advocate on behalf of the party that engages him.
“My first responsibility is to the court,” he said.
Hayes said he does his best to be objective in giving evidence but like all people he has his prejudices.
The defence counsel suggested that Hayes is not qualified to comment on the flailing injury to Chrisse Treacy’s left arm.
Hayes said that he looked at the damage to the hand and formed a view.
“I accept it is not within my expertise, I’m not a pathologist, but looking at the photo it is manifestly obvious,” he said.
Hayes also said the injury suggests “some significant action” and added that as an engineer he is entitled to comment on the strength of materials.
Greene put it to him again that he is not qualified to comment on the flailing injuries.
“I wouldn’t share that view. I shared a view, it’s a matter for the jury to decide the validity of that view.”
The witness denied that it was speculative to approximate the movement of the machine over Chrissie Treacy’s body.
He also explained that while the garda who stood behind the teleporter in the photos was more than six feet tall, he got him to crouch down to Chrissie Treacy’s height, at five feet six inches.
He agreed with Greene that nobody knows whether Chrissie Treacy was standing or on the ground when Scott started reversing the teleporter.
The trial continues at the Central Criminal Court.
By Eoin Reynolds