Christmas was Elaine McGarrity’s favourite time of the year. The mother of two and grandmother of four died after being struck by a pick-up truck driven by Ciaran Lee Wootton on New Year’s Eve in 2019 as she was heading to buy the final touches for a New Year’s Day celebration with her family.

“Christmas is just a day now,” says her devastated daughter, Fiona Muldoon. “The empty chair at the table will never be filled. She has left us with many good memories, but unfortunately, there could have been many more memories,” she says. “Christmas was a big thing in our house, and even New Year was a significant event, and that’s where she was heading that morning to get the last bits and pieces for dessert. We were planning a big family New Year’s Day dinner, but that didn’t happen.”

Speaking about the sentencing, Mrs. Muldoon described the court proceedings as “awful.”

In Dungannon Crown Court on Monday, September 25, Wootton (26), from Main Street, Newtownstewart, admitted to causing the death of Mrs. McGarrity, a pedestrian, by driving a pick-up truck dangerously. He also accepted responsibility for causing the death of Mrs. McGarrity by driving while uninsured and after taking the Toyota Hilux without the owner’s consent.

Mrs. McGarrity (54) was walking along Brownlink Link, Irvinestown, at 9 a.m. on December 31, 2019, when she was struck by the vehicle driven by Wootton.

The prosecution counsel said Wootton had driven without a clear view through his windscreen because, out of sheer laziness, he had not cleaned it. He had also claimed to have been driving at around 10 mph, and that the victim “ran out in front of him,” but forensic examination disproved both points.

Judge Brian Sherrard noted that at the point of collision, Mrs. McGarrity “became trapped under the vehicle, which continued driving for a further 50 meters before coming to a stop. She died rapidly as a result of severe chest injuries.”

The defence pointed to the impact the incident has had on Wootton’s mental health, which he continues to struggle with.

Addressing Wootton, the judge said, “The sole reason for this tragic turn of events was your failure to clear the windscreen of frost and condensation. You did not have the visibility required to drive safely and didn’t see Mrs. McGarrity. Moreover, the vehicle was in your possession for valeting, and you were not insured, nor did you have permission to drive.”

He continued: “You told the police that Mrs. McGarrity ran in front of your vehicle, which skidded when you applied the brakes. This notion was maintained for some time, as was the false contention of travelling at 10 mph and your windscreen visibility, although you later accepted that these points were incorrect. This entirely avoidable incident led to the death of a woman who was a valued and cherished member of our community.”

He described his behaviour as "highly culpable." "You chose to drive when visibility was impacted. There can be few more dangerous actions than driving blindly down a busy road. I consider the claim of Mrs. McGarrity running out in front of you as an attempt to place blame on the victim. You were not entirely candid in the interview.”

It emerged that Wootton has a history of driving offences that have led to disqualification, and even while the case was pending, he was before the court in 2022 and 2023 for motoring matters.

Jailing Wootton for three years imprisonment, to be divided equally between custody and on license, Judge Sherrard also imposed a three-year driving disqualification, adding: “This was a catastrophic one-off incident, but you continue to appear in court for road traffic offences, indicating a need to protect the public.”

Speaking about the sentencing earlier this week, Mrs. Muldoon said: “I know nobody sets out to do that, and it's your actions and the way you go on afterwards that can show a family how sorry you are. He has committed more driving offences and shouldn’t be driving at all.

“We as a family do not feel that the sentence is justifiable. I know it won't bring my mother back, but I think it is sending out the wrong message to everybody that you can go and kill a person on the road and get on with your life. He will get out in a year and a half, and my mother will never come back.

Addressing the sentencing, Mrs. Muldoon said: “The judge mentioned his mental health and psychiatric report, but not one person has come to my father, me, or my brother to ask, 'Would you like to see a psychiatrist? How is your mental health?'

The family says there is still difficulty going near the scene where their mother lost her life. Mrs. Muldoon said: “Every day you have to use that road, and all you see is your mother trapped under a vehicle, being dragged up a road that took him 11 seconds to stop. He did not brake until after he hit her, and he took her 50 yards up the road.”

Remembering her much-cherished mum, who is missed by the family every day, she said: “Mummy was a very family-orientated person. She always put the needs of everybody else first. She was a devoted wife and did everything for Daddy."

Mrs. McGarrity was a caring woman who also cared for others in the family, including her mother, sister, and grandchildren, Mrs. Muldoon said: “The grandchildren were her life.”

Paying tribute to her mother’s generosity and describing her as the "salt of the earth," her daughter said: "She’d have given you the shirt off her back."

"The glue of our family is gone," she said.