Northern Ireland news

John Aughey revved his car before driving over 16-year-old, say police

John Aughey leaves Belfast Crown Court at a previous hearing

The trial of an Orangeman who drove into a crowd of protesting nationalists over a banned loyalists parade heard today from police on the ground, including two officer officers who were also injured.

While some officers described seeing the red Nissan Pulsar car of 63-year-old John Alexander Aughey rev, and then "rise up" as it drove over 16-year-old Phoebe Clawson, another talked of it "ploughing into people" and with "people diving out of the way".

Aughey, from Brae Hill Park, Belfast, denies a total of six charges, including dangerous driving causing grievous bodily injury to teenager and assaulting police on July 13, 2015 at the north Belfast flashpoint of the Ardoyne shops.

The jury of eight women and four men heard that as police attempted to stop Aughey's car, one of the two officers also injured, almost ended up under the Nissan himself.  The constable said he was attempting to save Ms Clawson when he was stuck and felt his legs being taken from "under" him.

The chief inspector, the 'Bronze Commander', in charge of the 200 plus police on duty that day said that "up until the tipping point" of the car driving into crowd, there was a similar number of protesters, "spread along the shop fronts in a peaceful manner".

The commander said he noticed the red Nissan and was walking towards it with "half a dozen" other officers when he "saw it acceralate" having made a "very, very quick U turn into what would be a parking bay populated by a number of people".

He said he saw "people going over the bonnnet" of the car, one a young female.

"I observed her being hit and going on up on the bonnet of the car ... it appeared to slow and she fell down and the car drove over her," said the chief inspector, who added that as the car did so, he saw it "rise up".

He said his immediate reaction to what was a "very shocking incident," lasting just 20 to 30 second, was "to stop the car and to stop the crowd surging forward".

One of the injured policemen, who later had to have surgery on his right knee, said after seeing someone kick the rear offside of the Pulsar, and then a bottle being thrown at the vehicle, he and a colleague "went forward to assist the driver .... to speak to the driver and give him some assistance".

He said as they did so, the car began to make a 'U' turn and slow down, and initially thought it was going to stop, but then "moved on ... to accelerate, particularly into the crowd ... into the parking bay".

The constable added that as the car did so, he "saw a girl being carried on the bonnet of the car" and he began "shouting and signaling, waving my arms, for the driver to stop".  Although the car hit him in the knee, the officer said he moved to stop a colleague "falling under the car as well".

He then moved around to the "driver's window, hitting the window, slapping it and shouting, stop the car, stop the car, there's a girl under the vehicle".

His colleague, also struck in the right leg by the car, said he was trying to stop Ms Clawson from "going under the car," He said that the car had seemed to have revved and then "the vehicle went up and over" the teenager.

The officer said that when he himself was stuck, it "infact took the legs from under me". However, he managed to keep upright and began banging on the car window to get the driver to stop "because of the female on the floor".

A sergeant on duty with his inspector said as they approached the Nissan it appeared to reverse towards them. His inspector was shouting at the driver to stop when it "ploughed into people on the footpath", describing it as a "massive commotion with people diving out of the way".

He added that while not realising it "was a child", he saw someone "going up in the air and then slipping off the bonnet", before they managed to get the car to stop, preventing the back wheel from "going over the child".

His inspector said that as he shouted twice for the driver to stop, the car "accelerated hard to the right and into the crowd", and "impacted with at least a number of people in the crowd".

When the car was stopped, and Aughey was taken out of the vehicle, the inspector said he insturcted one of his officers to arrest the Orangeman and charge him with dangerous driving, causing grievous bodily injury.

Later in cross-examination by defence QC Greg Berry, the officers accepted that "tensions" in the area had been high, although there was no violence between the crowds and police.  Some also agreed they had witnessed several incidents involving other vehicles travelling along the Crumlin Road that evening.

They also agreed that someone from the crowd attacked Aughey car, and that a bottle was thrown at the vehicle, and that after the incident there was a "change in the attitude of the crowd".

When asked of one officer if he was in "fear for the safety" of Aughey, he replied: "Oh yes, definately", before adding that he "thought the crowd were coming down to do him some harm".

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