A Carrick man who caused the death of a “dedicated and highly skilled” nurse in a “horrific” two-car collision was handed a five-year sentence on Tuesday.
Neil McKee, 26, from Castleburn Road, was also banned from driving for seven years for causing the death by dangerous driving of 53-year-old Heather Steele.
The former G4S employee – whose main interest in life is cars – will spend half his sentence in prison, with the remaining half spent on supervised licence upon his release.
Belfast Crown Court heard McKee’s Seat Leon crashed into Ms Steele’s Suzuki Ignis in Carrickfergus at around 8pm on August 27, 2014.
McKee was driving well in excess of the 40mph speed limit on the main Belfast to Carrick road, and he caused the fatal collision at the junction of Castlerocklands Road.
Several witnesses observed McKee’s driving just prior to the collision, with one describing the speed as “phenomenal”.
Another witness whose car was overtaken by McKee estimated the Leon was being driven at speeds of up to between 60 and 70mph. This witness said: “I thought it was being driven so dangerously it was going to kill someone.”
Judge Gordon Kerr QC branded the crash as “horrific” and said it occurred “solely by the fault of the defendant”.
The judge said both a forensic examination of the scene and the “horrific damage” caused to both cars indicated McKee was driving at an excessive speed.
Following the crash, it also emerged that McKee’s car had been modified to make it more sporty and faster, and that due to this modification, McKee’s insurance was not valid.
Judge Kerr also spoke of the devastating loss felt by Ms Steele’s family, including her two brothers and her mother, who was 89 when her daughter died.
He described the deceased – who worked in the Royal Victoria Hospital – as a “dedicated and highly skilled” cardiac nurse.
Passing sentence, Judge Kerr said that McKee came before the court with a clear record, and accepted he had shown remorse.
It also emerged that since he caused Ms Steele’s death, McKee has been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder due to a combination of his guilt, his offending and the stress of court.