A garda collision investigator has accepted he made a mistake in his report on the incident that led to the death of Chrissie Treacy, who was run over by an agricultural teleporter driven by her nephew Michael Scott.
Gda Eoin O’Connor told Mr Scott’s trial at the Central Criminal Court that he was wrong when he wrote that “any experienced operator” of the teleporter would be aware that to prevent the machine from rolling they could leave it in gear and switched off. He accepted the evidence of another teleporter operator that leaving it in gear would not prevent it from rolling.
The trial has previously heard that Mr Scott told gardaí he was reversing the teleporter across a yard outside Ms Treacy’s home when he felt a “thump” and thought he might have hit a trailer. He said he moved the machine forward to prevent it from rolling, got down from the cabin and that was when he saw his 76-year-old aunt lying on the ground.
Gda O’Connor said he made the mistake because he is not an experienced operator of the machinery.
Mr Scott (58), of Gortanumera, Portumna, Co Galway, has pleaded not guilty to murder of Ms Treacy outside her home in Derryhiney, Portumna, Co Galway on April 27th, 2018.
The prosecution’s case is that Mr Scott deliberately ran over Ms Treacy following a long-running dispute over land. Mr Scott’s lawyers have said her death was a tragic accident.
Gda O’Connor told defence counsel Paul Greene SC that his role as a collision investigator required him to gather physical evidence at the scene, to understand environmental factors and to investigate the driver’s behaviour. He said he checked the driver’s visibility around the machine and whether the teleporter was in good working condition.
He agreed that he had made a mistake when he wrote in his report that if Mr Scott was concerned about the teleporter rolling, he could have left it in gear after turning it off.
Mr Greene suggested that the witness was wrong when he said that “any experienced machine operator would be aware” that leaving the machine in gear would prevent it from rolling. Gda O’Connor said he was not claiming to be an experienced operator of the machine and his opinion was wrong in that respect.
“You made a mistake,” Mr Greene said. Gda O’Connor replied: “I have no issue with acknowledging instances where I made a mistake.”
He agreed that he had made the mistake in his report because he isn’t experienced at working with teleporters.
Mr Greene asked if the witness had “a theory about the causes of this accident before you embarked on your investigations”, to which Gda O’Connor said he had information about what happened, including that the teleporter had travelled over the deceased.
He said he carried out an exploratory investigation to establish sight lines from the vehicle and to gather physical evidence. “I try to keep an open mind,” he said.
Gda O’Connor also agreed that as part of his investigation he had used an online resource to find out in what direction the sun would have been shining at shortly after 3pm on the date in question, when the collision occurred.
He said it was south and slightly to the west and agreed that if Mr Scott were looking over his left shoulder while reversing across the yard, he would have been looking towards the south-west.
Gda O’Connor added: “The only time, in my experience, that the sun is a significant factor is when the sun is very low in the sky. It is not low in the sky at 3pm in April.”
The trial has previously heard that Ms Treacy and Mr Scott jointly owned a 140-acre farm that included a dairy operation and Ms Treacy’s home at Derryhiney.
By early 2018 Ms Treacy had begun court proceedings to have the land partitioned and on the day she died, Mr Scott was to receive a letter telling him not to apply for farm payments in respect of three parcels of land as Ms Treacy intended to apply for the payments herself.
Regina Donohue, a close friend and neighbour of the deceased, has previously told the trial that Ms Treacy bequeathed to her, her half of the Derryhiney lands so that since Ms Treacy’s death Ms Donohue jointly owns the 140-acre farm with Mr Scott.
On Tuesday, Ms Donohue was recalled and told prosecution counsel Dean Kelly SC that she continued the court proceedings that had been started by Ms Treacy to formally partition the land.
She said that on July 29th, 2022, a judge at the Circuit Court in Galway made an interim order that Ms Donohue was to have exclusive access to a 38 acre area of land at Derryhiney known as Daniel’s Field.
She said that the civil proceedings in relation to the rest of the land have been adjourned until Mr Scott’s trial is resolved. Mr Scott, she said, exclusively farms the remaining areas of the farm.
The trial continues tomorrow in front of Ms Justice Caroline Biggs and a jury of seven men and eight women.