Northern Ireland

PSNI officer denies alleged republican views of accident victim’s family had a bearing on treatment

Shannon McQuillan died after being allowed to leave ambulance on country road

Shannon McQuillan and her boyfriend Owen McFerran
Shannon McQuillan died in 2018

A PSNI officer has denied that the alleged republican views of a teenager’s family who was knocked down and killed after being allowed to leave an ambulance on a country roadside by police had a bearing on how he dealt with her.

The denial came during an inquest into the death of law and criminology student Shannon McQuillan on Wednesday.

Ms McQuillan (19), from Dunloy, died after she was struck by a van on the Moneynick Road, near Toome in Co Antrim, in January 2018, a short time after leaving the back of an ambulance which was taking her to hospital.

Her boyfriend Owen McFerran (21), from Ballymoney, was left fighting for his life after the accident, which took place in the early hours of the morning on the old main Derry to Belfast road.

Earlier this week, Coroner Joe McCrisken heard how Ms McQuillan had been taken to hospital by ambulance after falling in a car park in Magherafelt, Co Derry, on leaving a local nightclub.

The coroner also heard harrowing audio recordings of emergency calls being made while footage of the collision scene was also shown to the court.

Details have emerged of how ambulance staff radioed for police after an altercation involving Ms McQuillan and pulled in at a bus stop near Toome to await their arrival.

On Wednesday the coroner heard from a police sergeant, who arrived at the scene with two female officers, and said that “sectarian songs” were sung.

The officer told the court he took the decision to allow Ms McQuillan and her boyfriend, who had both taken drink, to leave the ambulance in the belief they were to be picked up by her mother.

Barrister for the McQuillan family, John Mackell later referenced an interview given by the officer to the Police Ombudsman’s office adding that it was “something the family has raised in particular”.

“You mention your view that Shannon came from quite a republican family and that these were not co-operative people and you reference the singing, in particular in the ambulance,” Mr Mackell said.

“Can I ask, did your perception of the background of Shannon McQuillan have any bearing on how you dealt with that evening?

The officer, who described himself as a Catholic, responded “absolutely not” adding that “it would have had no bearing whatsoever…even if I held such discriminatory views that that would cloud my judgement in any way”.

The barrister went on to make other comments made by him to the Ombudsman’s office “that the family will never be satisfied”.

“You also then make reference and assertions as to the family have strong republican views and refer to the attendance of a family member at a Sinn Féin Ard Fheis,” he said.

At this point Mr McCrisken stepped in saying: “Sorry Mr Mackell to interrupt, but ….it’s so far outside of what’s relevant….you don’t have cart blanche at my inquest to say whatever the family would like you to say… it has to be relevant to the events that took place and this isn’t”.

Mr Mackell said he wanted to give the officer an opportunity to comment “as far as the approach of the family are concerned and the questions they have asked, they would submit….that their queries simply relate to finding out how it was their 19-year-old daughter, who they loved deeply went out for a night socialising and never came home.

“And that’s the basis of the enquiries raised on behalf of the family,” the barrister added.