Monday, 3 October 2016

A Tragedy in Limerick

The wreckage of a car is lifted to a recovery vehicle at the scene where A father and his young son have been killed in a collision involving a car and truck on the N24 between Pallasgreen and Oola in Co Limerick this morning. Picture credit; Damien Eagers
http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/gardai-investigate-link-between-fatal-father-and-son-crash-and-stab-assault-on-mother-34895620.html


Introduction

On Tuesday 19th July, 2016 at about 8.30 am, a 2005 black Audi car, with a father and young son on board, was travelling from Oona to Limerick on the N24 in Ireland. Unexpectedly it turned into the path of an oncoming articulated lorry. Tragically neither survived the catastrophic impact.



http://www.irishexaminer.com/remote/media.central.ie/media/images/l/LimerickCrashScene190716a_large.jpg?width=648&s=ie-411319



According to the police, the "front of the truck took the brunt of the collision and was badly damaged."  Fortunately the driver escaped relatively unharmed, apart from being 'very traumatised'.  The lorry somehow ended up in an adjacent field, on the opposite side of the road. See below:

The truck after the crash on the N24 Photo: Damien Eagers
Damien Eagers http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/further-details-of-tragic-father-and-son-crash-emerge-as-mother-undergoes-surgery-34898032.html



The accident occurred only seventeen days following the 'miraculous' survival of another toddler after falling from a nearby Limerick hotel. I have previously discussed that event here: http://veaterecosan.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/thank-god-for-miracles-press-22-neil.html   There is no reason to believe the incidents are connected, other than they both involve a toddler of similar age, in the same part of Ireland, one of whom luckily survived whilst the other, tragically did not.


Strange Aspects of the Tragedy Summarised


  1. The circumstances of the out-of-character preceding attack on ex-partner and the impression given of a 'happy family' immediately prior.
  2. Newspaper reports well after the event, that his partner had been "murdered".
  3. The circumstances of the actual accident. How did it happen?
  4. Issues posed by the available photographs and statements.
  5. Inexplicable response by official pathologist and absence of Coroner's Inquest.
  6. Conflicting reports of funeral arrangements.

Outline of Circumstances

The accident happened at Brook’s Bridge between Pallas Green and Oola on the Limerick to Tipperary stretch of the N24. See below:






The adult male, was named locally as Marco Velocci (28) and his son Alex James (3). The mother of the child is Ms Jodie Power (26), Mr Velocci's former partner. (It would appear that 'James' is his mother's maiden name as her two brothers also have that surname)  She also we are told, has another child by a former partner. They appear in the photograph below in the context of a local story about how they had rescued and saved a baby rabbit (shown). This despite it has to be said, Mr Velocci's passion for field sports. 

It is taken from the Daily Mail article which also provided the text in inverted commas beneath it. Surprisingly it contains the fundamental error that Ms Power was killed. She in fact survived the attack and recovered sufficiently to attend the funeral a little later. How such a mistake could have been made and remain uncorrected, has not been explained.


¿Childhood sweethearts¿: Marco Velocci and Jodie Power, who Velocci apparently stabbed to death before killing himself and their young son

"‘Childhood sweethearts’: Marco Velocci and Jodie Power, who Velocci apparently stabbed to death before killing himself and their young son"


Reason for the crash


At first the reason for the crash was inexplicable. As police investigations continued however, headed up by Inspector Luke Conlon, at Bruff Garda Station, the circumstances became clearer, and pointed towards an intentional act by the driver. 

In the view of the police, Mr Velocci took a course of action, that he must almost certainly have known, would have grave consequences for both him and his son, namely intentionally turning his car into the path of an articulated lorry coming in the opposite direction! In a technical sense the investigation evolved from tragic road traffic collision, to suicide and murder.

The reason for this changed interpretation was that at about the same time as the crash was happening, an emergency call was recorded, reporting that a woman had been viciously attacked with a knife at her home in Oona shortly after 8 o'clock and that her ex-partner and father of the child, Mr Velocci, had driven off with the boy towards Limerick.  

It presumably did not take long to connect the two incidents and a possible explanation. Had Mr Velocci intentionally ended his own life and that of his small son? Was it motivated by sadness at the break-up of his long-standing relationship with Ms Power and/or a sense of guilt and desperation, because he believed he had attacked and possibly killed her?

Perhaps understandably, very little information has emerged regarding the apparently violent altercation that occurred immediately before he set off from Oona that might throw light on his state of mind or motivation. 

In its absence, the reason for the collision is somewhat circumstantial and other causes, such as momentary loss of concentration, reckless driving behaviour or mechanical failures cannot be completely ruled out.

The property Glebe, Oola, where the 8 am altercation occurred.

Crime scene: The devastation that has torn a family apart began at 8am yesterday when mother-of-two Ms Power, 26, of Glebe, Oola, sustained stab wounds during a violent assault at her home


Inexplicable Conflicting Reports

Apparently the two adults, had been 'childhood sweethearts', and been in an established relationship which had recently broken down and they had been separated for about a year. However locals reported that they had been seen the night before walking amicably with one another. 

The Mail reports a local witness as follows: "One resident of Oola, Co. Limerick, said the mother, father and son had all been seen out for an evening walk just the day before and seemed 'quite happy no arguments or anything."

For some reason on the morning of the the 19th a violent argument had developed, that resulted in violence and a fraught departure, leaving Ms Power as the Mail reported it with, "sustained stab wounds ... suffering superficial wounds and a broken arm." Later in the article it states, "Ms Power was last night recovering from her injuries."

Now what is inexplicable and rather strange, despite the description above, in the very same article, a collaboration between the Mail on Line and the Irish Mail (journalists: "David Raleigh in Limerick and Darren Hasset for the Irish Daily Mail and Martin Robinson UK Chief Reporter for Mailonline") it is stated not once but twice, that Velocci had murdered his ex-partner! The article was published a full twenty-six hours after the event and still appears in that uncorrected form today!

I quote: "A father is believed to have deliberately killed himself and his three-year-old son in a car crash hours after stabbing to death his childhood sweetheart in a devastating murder suicide." (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3698985/Ex-boyfriend-stabbed-estranged-partner-row-killed-three-year-old-son-smashing-car-lorry.html#ixzz4IO1gnMQA)

And then again: "Mr Velocci appears to have killed his son Alex's mother while he was in the house, before heading off in a car to kill them both."

Now how can these dramatically conflicting accounts appear in the very same article more than a day after the event? Even within the article there is a very obvious contradiction that appears to have gone unnoticed. In addition no attempt appears to have been made to correct or apologise for this serious error. 

Is it likely that 'murder' would have been alleged and put into print unless it had come from a reliable and official source? If so, how could the police (or possibly the ambulance men) have made such a fundamental and important mistake?

Behaviour inconsistent with both character and recent activity.

Another aspect that is very difficult to reconcile is the character description of Mr Velocci, who is described by those that knew him, as a very gentle and quiet man, who loved his son. 

A friend Jonathan Ryan who was 'utterly shocked' described him as, "Fiercely kind-hearted with no badness whatsoever in him, nothing. He was a very quiet, genuine person. He never had a bad word to say about anyone,' adding that, "he was brilliant company. He was the nicest person you could meet, so friendly and quiet. He was never in trouble with anyone, like gardaĆ­ or anyone like that. He just loved his dogs, and shooting and fishing. He was one of the nicest, kind-hearted people you could meet." He also said that Mr Velocci, who worked as a carpenter, "loved his son and loved his family and did everything for them."

It remains a mystery what state of mind, what state of desperation, could have driven him to act in a way so extreme and out of character, not only to attack his long term partner, but take a course of action that would destroy both himself and his young son? 


Pathologist's Report


It was reported by the Sun newspaper on the 20th July that Assistant State Pathologist, Dr Louise Mulligan, had completed postmortems at University Hospital Limerick by 7 o'clock on the previous day - the day of the accident (19.7.2016). A source said “nothing of note was discovered” in the autopsies and the final report is “awaited”.(1)


Meanwhile to add to the confusion this report (2) from 'Trucker's World' on the 22nd July, 2016 states the postmortem was carried out on the evening of the 20th not the 19th as stated above.  Clearly one or other must be wrong. It states as follows: 


"Published 22 Jul, 16 - The findings of postmortems on the bodies of a father and son, who died on Tuesday in a suspected murder-suicide car crash, will not be confirmed for weeks, as authorities await toxicology test results. Postmortems were completed shortly after 7pm on Wednesday on the bodies of Marco Velocci (28) and his son Alex (3) by Assistant State Pathologist Dr Louise Mulligan at University Hospital Limerick. A source said nothing of note was discovered in the autopsies, and that the final pathologist report is awaited .


As part of normal postmortem procedures, toxicology tests were conducted on the bodies to investigate whether or not either of the deceased had consumed any medication or drugs prior to their deaths. The results will take weeks, a source said. The cause of their deaths is not likely to be fully known until after a future inquest at the Limerick County Coroner s Court."

Note some reference is made to 'toxilogical tests' to indicate whether any chemicals were present in either case. The generality and vagueness gives no real information on the exact nature and purpose of the sampling exercise and whether in addition to the cause of the accident, the earlier stabbing incident was being considered.


To describe the fatal injuries to an adult and small child in an horrendous crash, the former apparently trapped inside the car, whilst the latter had been flung outside it and discovered in the road itself, as, "Nothing of note", seems a little strange, particularly when the police had already suspected an intentional act of suicide and murder.


Presumably there would have been serious fractures, contusions, puncture wounds, serious internal injuries or at least abrasions? You will note there is nothing in this bland, unspecific, notably un-medical statement to indicate the actual or specific cause of death, and whether in both or either case, it was presumed to be instantaneous or delayed or at what point death was actually certified and by whom.



Still no news of the forensic tests, post mortems or inquest

Despite the passage of more than two months, I can find no newspaper reports of an update on this most tragic of cases. No information on an inquest date set or held, or any publicised further details of police conclusions based on the toxicological and other reports. It would appear, as so often seems to be the case, local press quickly lose interest  and seldom ask questions or do follow up, tending only to channel official sources. Investigative journalism we must conclude, particularly at local level, is virtually non existent.


Post-mortem procedure and transparency (UK)

In 2006 a report was published in the UK with recommendations for a standardised procedure where Coroner's post mortems were required.(3)  Although this does not extend to Eire, it would be interesting to know if similar procedures are followed there? Although fairly comprehensive as regards the process between Coroner and Pathologist, it says virtually nothing on transparency or communication issues to family or public. 


In Britain reforms were introduced in the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. The key areas of change were the following:
  • the publication of statutory guidance, the “Guide to Coroners Services”, for bereaved people (available from coroners’ offices and on gov.uk)
  • a requirement that coroners disclose information that bereaved people request during an investigation, free of charge
  • a requirement for all inquests to be recorded
  • a requirement that coroners are available at all times to address matters which must be dealt with immediately
  • a requirement that bereaved people and other interested persons are notified of inquest arrangements and any changes within a week of the arrangements or changes made
  • flexibility of the location for inquests and post-mortem examinations which may now be held anywhere in England and Wales rather than being restricted to the coroner’s area
Of course Eire has its own system but the issues relating to unnatural death and its investigation know no artificial boundaries and are important to all. A very similar legal framework exists in the two nation states resulting from many common and shared principles. (4)

Those comfortable with current arrangements, may be surprised to learn that numerous studies have shown that in about a third of cases, where a  post mortem is carried out, it reveals an inaccurate cause of death and in about 50%, an additional cause  unspecified by the doctor.  

This may be indicative of the reliability of death certification by doctors more generally, leaving aside those of intentional misrepresentation, as in the notorious Dr Harold Shipman case, which had far-reaching consequences.

Position of the vehicle

It would appear that photographs of the car indicate it was moved prior to it being hoisted by crane onto the back of a transporter and removed from the scene.

This image of the crash scene is probably one of the earliest. The damaged car is hidden behind vehicles to the right. In description note word 'assets'.


http://utv.ie/assets/data/mediafile/23fab1b7-04bb-47e3-b153-78cd97bcd35e/700



The following image was difficult to locate. It is not altogether clear what is going on and who the gentleman between the two firemen (?) is and what he is inspecting. Note the position and angle of the vehicle at this point in time. Most of the physical damage to the estate car was on its opposite (front off-side) hidden from this angle.


http://content.tv3.ie/content/videos/1014/1730limerick_jul19_111324_preview.jpg


The above photo may be contrasted with the following image that shows the Audi car at a distinctly different angle. This time the nose of the vehicle is pointing away from the road and into the ditch. Clearly the damaged Audi must have been moved between the time these photo images were taken. 

It might be explained by a perceived need to get the car off the highway but it is still rather surprising given the the fact that this was no ordinary road traffic accident (RTA). By this stage it must have been regarded by police as a crime scene and treated as such, the first and most obvious principle of which, is that nothing must be interfered with (other than to save life) until all investigations and recordings have been completed.

Another reason it is surprising, is that there was no real need to move it, even if it was marginally impinging the highway, as it appears the road remained closed by police (diversions can be seen in operation in photographs below) until after the vehicle had been removed as per the photograph at the top of piece.

It must have taken considerable muscle and effort, to move the front of the vehicle containing the engine, even the short distance shown, although gravity and a grassy surface is likely to have helped.

We must assume that the former picture referred to, is the one that reflects more accurately where the car ended up after the crash. It is not altogether clear what object or debris is to the front of the vehicle. This next picture comes from the Daily Mail complete with identifiable registration (05 DL 1453) showing the second of the two positions of the vehicle as described.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3698985/Ex-boyfriend-stabbed-estranged-partner-row-killed-three-year-old-son-smashing-car-lorry.html#ixzz4IO1gnMQA



Horror: Little Alex was discovered lying on the road, near the front wheel of his father's Audi estate, while Mr Velocci was found inside the car.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3698985/Ex-boyfriend-stabbed-estranged-partner-row-killed-three-year-old-son-smashing-car-lorry.html


Here is a different image of the vehicle replicating the position of the second of the two above but taken somewhat further away. Three Garda vehicles are shown plus an additional one behind the police estate on the right that may or may not be police vehicle. Three officers are shown only one of whom appears to be in uniform. Note the relatively undamaged nature of the rear of the vehicle or any evidence of a roll-over.

GardaĆ­ are investigating a fatal crash on the main Limerick to Tipperary road on Tuesday morning in which a man and his three-year-old son died. Photograph: Press 22
http://i3.mirror.co.uk/incoming/article8461441.ece/ALTERNATES/s615/PAY-Fatal-Crash-Pallasgreen3.jpg   (O5 DL 1453)


Here's another one even further down the main road from behind a police blockade. This is on the Limerick side of the collision, looking in a south easterly direction. The crashed Audi can just be seen behind the parked (police?) car on the right.

Gardai investigate link between Limerick crash and stabbing
http://www.limerickleader.ie/news/home/211438/gardai-investigate-link-between-limerick-crash-and-stabbing.html


In the next one, slightly later in the day, the barrier has been moved further up the road to allow for diverted traffic into the left hand junction marked L5042 (?) (Incidentally despite a search I cannot find this numbered road on any map or Google. I can only assume it is not marked.) The nearest likely location is just north of the cross roads where the L5045 and R507 meet the N24 - unless as is possible it was to the south of this junction and the 'l' road has been renumbered? Without local knowledge it is hard to pinpoint the exact location.This I assume, as some papers report, it is called 'Brooks Bridge'. (See: https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/Pallasgreen,+Co.+Limerick,+Ireland/@52.5386685,-8.3000342,14z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x485ca8bab01b2817:0x635e3cea6490965c!8m2!3d52.54911!4d-8.35282)

Scene of the crash
https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/1472105/man-stabs-ex-and-kills-himself-and-toddler-son-in-suspected-murder-suicide/


The next different photograph confirms the point being made and the earliest position and location when the Audi came to rest, following which at some time its nose was dragged down hill away from the road.

The crash scene
http://www.rte.ie/news/2016/0720/803737-limerick-crash/
Here's another from a slightly different angle:


http://independent.bbvms.com/mediaclip/2666962/pthumbnail/608/340.jpg




Now for images from the opposite direction, namely looking north west towards Limerick:


http://independent.bbvms.com/mediaclip/2666770/pthumbnail/608/340.jpg
http://www.independent.ie/videos/irish-news/video-father-and-son-killed-in-a-headon-collision-in-limerick-34898983.html


And from a greater distance where a diversion was set up

The cab of the articulated lorry can just be seen on the left between the two road signs. Rather inexplicably there are no available images of the front of the lorry or ones taken in the field with the exception of the one later in this piece.




A Garda directs traffic off the N24 where a father and his young son have been killed in a collision involving a car and truck on the N24 between Pallasgreen and Oola in Co Limerick this morning. Picture credit; Damien Eagers
www.independent.ie/irish-news/gardai-investigate-link-between-fatal-father-and-son-crash-and-stab-assault-on-mother-34895620.html

The following photograph was taken prior to the damaged Audi, on the left, was removed. It is hard to reconcile the image of the vehicle with those from the opposite direction shown above. The huge damage to the front of the car can be seen. The debris scattered across the road surface must surely indicate the point of collision with the articulated lorry.

Further, if we compare this image with the RTE NEWS image, it will be noticed that another silver car in that one is no longer visible. We do not know to whom the silver estate belongs and it is too distant and indistinct to identify it. Nor do we know if it was involved in the accident or belonged to an emergency responder. Nor does it appear to be a police or other emergency vehicle. In any event it appears undamaged and probably masking the view of the crashed Audi.

What is strange is that it should be parked where it is, facing in the direction of Limerick yet past all the debris in the road. Who would have driven over it all and parked immediately behind the crashed car? Who would have been allowed to do so given the fact that this was a police controlled crime scene. No mention is made in reports of any other vehicle being involved in the crash, although a motor cyclist and witnesses are referred to. No motor cycle appears on any of the images available.

Also note that by the time the photo below is taken the silver estate has disappeared and is nowhere to be seen - presumably driven away prior to the site being cleared. Whoever drove it away was either no longer required by police or had seen all he wanted to see. Please also note the absence of this silver estate in that location in any of the images from the opposite direction above although there is one that might fit partly hidden behind the police vehicle. Was it moved between the two images being taken? Note also there is no sign of it in what must have been an early image when the hearse was in attendance (see above) So the presence, location and movements of that silver estate car creates a few questions that have never been asked or answered.



The scene of the collision on the N24 between Pallasgreen and Oola in Co Limerick Credit: Damien Eagers
http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/gardai-investigate-link-between-fatal-father-and-son-crash-and-stab-assault-on-mother-34895620.html



In the following image we have the best one of the lorry with red cab and white trailer, partially revealing the firm involved. This has never been officially stated. It was described as a cement lorry. This cannot be confirmed from the photograph though it is clearly of a specialised type to convey liquids and powders in bulk. Precisely how and why it crossed the road and ended up in the field is not explained. We must assume the force of the frontal impact caused it to veer to its right. Strangely the skid marks associated with the lorry's emergency braking procedure are indistinct and difficult to interpret. Those relating to the car are more pronounced.


The scene of the collision on the N24 between Pallasgreen and Oola in Co Limerick this morning. Credit: Damien Eagers
http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/gardai-investigate-link-between-fatal-father-and-son-crash-and-stab-assault-on-mother-34895620.html


What is rather strange is for all intents and purposes, the collision appears to have happened well in advance of the actual debris in the road yet it is hard to see how this could happen as the debris much surely indicate the point of impact?

The top image appears to show a dark patch from right to left roughly in the direction of the lorry (is this a braking tyre mark? ) and what appear to be the Audi's tyre marks going from right to left on a collision course well before the debris. From this point the trajectory of car and lorry are indicated by the final locations, the Audi also spinning through 180 degrees to face the opposite direction. Again rather strangely, there appear to be no tyre rubber marks that might be expected from the 180 degree spin.

So we have the report that the Audi turned into the path of the on-coming lorry whereas the tyre marks appear to indicate the Audi was on the off side of the road whilst turning and skidding to the left hand near side when the collision took place, scattering the debris behind the lorry further up the road. How can this be explained?

There would appear to me to be one of two explanations. First that the Audi was (overtaking?) on the right hand side of the road when the lorry appeared essentially from a blind RH bend in the road and that the driver turned desperately to the left whilst simultaneously braking (note how skid marks get heavier and intermittent probably from ABS) That the lorry driver, coming upon the off side car tried to steer left (his right) to avoid collision but without success. A less likely scenario would be that the lorry was heading for the field entrance in a right turn manoeuvre that the Audi first sought to avoid by going to the right then changing his mind.

If the official version that the Audi veered from the left near side into the path of the oncoming lorry, why do the skid marks and position of debris and vehicles not support it?

Finally, there is this image that does not seem to fit any of the others or the narrative. It appears to be taken from inside a field. It is clearly stated to be of the same accident scene but nothing seems to fit the earlier images. If that is the rear of the same crash Audi it appears to be in a different location if only because the prominent telegraph poles are missing from all other images.

Shicking: Mr Velocci's car had ploughed head-on into an articulated lorry - killing both Mr Velocci and his son instantly in Limerick yesterday
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3698985/Ex-boyfriend-stabbed-estranged-partner-row-killed-three-year-old-son-smashing-car-lorry.html


Also note what appears to be a Citroen estate car appears in the image and it looks as if it too has suffered a front end impact of some kind (note crumpled bonnet) Is this the same silver estate car referred to earlier photographed from the south east. There are two further vehicles in the picture - what appears to be another estate with tail gate up and an ambulance with emergency personnel inside - presumably with an accident victim not referred to? A male and female plus a further six fire/ambulance and one policeman in addition to the three in the ambulance are in the frame.

Obvious questions arise:  What is that other car? Who are the two civilians? Who is in the ambulance? How were they all involved and why have none of them been mentioned? Indeed it is difficult to see how they can be fitted into the official description of just one car turning into the path of a lorry! And what is the other estate car similar but different to the crash vehicle doing there? Is this in fact a quite different scene, incorrectly labelled? Surely not? It is however very difficult to fit it into the description or reconcile it with the others.


Unanswered Questions

So the questions that come to mind in this distant and disconnected observer regarding tis most tragic of events that only those in Limerick can answer, are as follows:


  • What caused Mr Velocci to act so out of character and so contrary to the eye witness accounts immediately prior?
  • Why was he described in some reports as "Eastern European" when his father apparently came from Italy?
  • Why did newspapers report more than a day later that his ex-partner had been 'stabbed to death', i.e. murdered?
  • Why in such unusual circumstances did the pathologist source state, "nothing of note was discovered from the autopsies"?
  • Why do the early photographs appear to reveal discrepancies in the location/position of the crashed vehicle and why had it been moved?
  • Why do the images of the vehicle being loaded onto the trailer show a vehicle hugely damaged and hardly reconcilable with the rear images of the vehicle?
  • What was the involvement of the other (Citroen?) estate vehicle shown within the taped off crime scene and when was it removed?
  • Is this the same damaged (?) vehicle shown in the last photograph and what is the other vehicle, similar but different to crashed Audi? Very strange!
  • Why do the tyre skid marks in the road appear to veer from off side to near side rather than the opposite that was the official version?
  • Why if these are the Audi tyre marks, does it indicate a point of collision well in advance of all the debris from car and lorry in the road?
  • Why were no photographs taken of the articulated lorry apart from 'accidental' ones?
  • How is the lorry's final position to be explained if the Audi "veered into its path" on the off side of the road?
  • The lorry was described as a "cement lorry". Is this correct as it is clearly designed for carrying powder usually.
  • Mention was made of a motor "cycle witness" yet no motor cycle or cyclist are visible on any of the photographs.
  • Touchingly and unusually, father and son were said to interred together in the same coffin when earlier reports stated they were to be buried separately.
  • Why after the initial coverage does there appear to be no further reports, particularly as regards the setting or holding of an inquest?



1. http://www.thesun.ie/irishsol/homepage/news/7214967/Murder-suicide-horror-Tragic-Alex-to-be-buried-in-separate-grave-from-his-father.html2. http://truckerworld.uk/posts/2016/07/postmortems-due-on-father-son-killed-in-suspected-murder-suicide/
3. http://www.ncepod.org.uk/2006Report/Downloads/Coronial%20Autopsy%20Report%202006.pdf
4. http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/death/sudden_or_unexplained_death/coroners.html




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