THE family of the first victim of killer motorist Gary McCourt today broke their near-30 year silence to speak of their grief.
Liz and Ann Dalgity called for a stiff jail sentence for the motorist who has now killed two cyclists on Edinburgh’s roads. The deaths were less than a mile apart.
Earlier this month, McCourt was found guilty of running down Audrey Fyfe, 75. It only emerged after the trial that McCourt, 49, of Niddrie Mill Avenue, had a previous conviction for careless driving from 1986.
George Dalgity, 22, died from massive injuries after McCourt knocked him off his bike in Regent Road.
Now the Dalgitys are writing to the Sheriff to tell of their family’s agony, asking that he not only be banned from driving for life, but is handed a long jail sentence.
‘McCourt’s killed twice ... don’t let there be a third’
WITH his mop of dark curls, steady smile and a proud hand clasping his geography degree scroll, George Dalgity’s golden future seemed assured.
The former Drummond High pupil had already seen his work recognised by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society and been accepted to study for a PhD at Ohio State University. In the meantime – between graduating and heading to the States – he was driving LRT buses to make some cash.
On the night of October 18, 1985, the 22-year-old from the Abbeyhill colonies had finished his shift, headed home to get changed, and was back out on his ten-speed racer cycling to Bruntsfield to visit his girlfriend.
Five minutes later that golden future was destroyed. It was almost 1am when a driver smashed into him as he pedalled along Regent Road, with such force he was thrown to the other side of the road – his keys were later recovered in the private gardens of the street – leaving him bleeding, broken and brain damaged.
Eight days later, the young man with such a sense of fair play he had once demanded he and his school girlfriend were made joint duxes of their secondary after he edged her by just half a point, who could play a good piano tune, who could have a room laughing in minutes, was dead.
If he’d lived he would be 49. The same age as the man who snuffed out his life by careless driving, and who has now – 27 years on – been found guilty of causing the death of a second cyclist.
Gary McCourt, of Magdalene Drive, knocked 75-year-old Audrey Fyfe from her bike at the junction of Portobello Road and Craigentinny Avenue in August 2011. Earlier this month, after pleading not guilty, he was found guilty of causing death by careless driving. Now he is awaiting sentencing.
Back in 1986, after a trial and being found guilty of careless driving – the law later changed to take into account any deaths resulting from such carelessness – he was sentenced to two years, but the Dalgitys understand he only served eight months.
And although widower John Fyfe has suggested that jail for McCourt for the death of his wife Audrey would be a waste of taxpayers’ money and a lifetime ban from driving would suffice, the Dalgitys feel otherwise. So, after almost 30 years of silence, they have finally spoken about their loss.
“We don’t want to intrude on the grief of the Fyfe family, and we hope they will not be further hurt, but we do believe that he [McCourt] should receive a very stiff sentence this time around. That’s two people he has killed through careless driving – we don’t want there to be a third and it would seem he didn’t learn his lesson,” says Ann, George’s younger sister.
“I worshipped George, so much so I studied all the same science subjects he did at school even though I was hopeless at them.
“When he died I was in Crete and he’d given me £40 before I’d left. I got a telegram from my parents saying to get in touch. I thought it might have had something to do with my grandad, I never thought anything would have happened to George. It took me ages to get home, there were no flights available. I never got back in time, I never saw him again.”
For 80-year-old Liz, George’s mother, the last recollection she has of her son – prior to seeing him in hospital – was when he left for his shift on the buses.
“You just don’t ever imagine it’s going to be the last time you’ll talk to someone,” she says. “The police came to the house about 2.30 in the morning. I just asked which one it was. You know if they’re there at that sort of time something awful has happened.
“My husband, also George, was working night shift so he had to come home and they took us to the hospital. I just remember the doctors telling us he was seriously ill quite a few times. He was in intensive care at the old Infirmary for eight days. We got to sit beside him and we stayed over the night he died.”
George had suffered extensive head, back and limb injuries. His brain stem was damaged and he never regained consciousness.
“We were always a family that cycled. And George [senior] taught them both to cycle and drummed road safety into them from an early age,” says Liz. “They were never out at night without lights. George once cycled to Shetland, and Ann and her dad did Land’s End to John O’Groats. They were used to being on the roads.
“But Regent Road is a very wide road, and quiet at nights, and I think that attracted a lot of boy racers years ago. We were told that after George was hit that McCourt didn’t stop, the police had to go looking for him. We were also told he didn’t have a licence or insurance. All we know is that losing him left a huge gap in our lives.”
Ann adds: “We were devastated. It took me years to even talk about it. The fact that the same person has now taken the life of another cyclist has brought it all flooding back. I remember hearing about Audrey Fyfe on the radio and feeling terribly sorry for her family, but also for the driver. When I discovered who it was, I stopped feeling that.
“It’s been suggested that sending him to jail would be a waste of taxpayers’ money but the four years that George spent at university could be seen as that, too,” she adds. “He never had a chance to use his degree. Never had a chance to live his life.”
Liz says: “It never leaves you. It becomes part of your life. We don’t want vengeance or to be vindictive, but it seems to us that this man has no remorse for what he’s done – twice now – or he would have pleaded guilty and not put another family through a trial.
“We were angry about his sentence at the time – it seemed so short. Then we were told he was out after eight months. We couldn’t believe it.”
The Dalgitys have since moved from Abbeyhill, but still want to help make Edinburgh’s roads safer from careless drivers.
“We’re writing to the sheriff before he hands out the sentence because we want to make him – and others – aware of the severity of what he’s done,” says Ann. “And we want to make the roads safer for everyone. A long jail sentence would, we hope, make others think twice about careless driving. It’s not just an accident. We’re still living it.”
When we approached Mr McCourt, he declined to comment. He will be sentenced on May 3. His hearing, at Edinburgh Sheriff Court earlier this month, heard how he had admitted to police that he had “clipped” Mrs Fyfe’s back wheel.
McCourt claimed that he hadn’t committed any criminal offence and that the collision between him and Mrs Fyfe was accidental. However, the jury convicted him of causing death by careless driving. Depute procurator fiscal Lesley Smith then told the court that McCourt had a criminal record.
She said: “He was convicted in 1986 of causing death by reckless driving.”