A loving mum has revealed how she has slept in her daughter’s bed ever since she was killed by a drunk-driver and how she will never change a thing about the room.
Tracey Baird wiped away tears as she paid tribute to her loving daughter Kiara who was just 19 years old when she died.
Kiara and pal Maria Wallace, 38, were killed by serial criminal Dermot Dowd on a country road outside Ballybofey in September 2016.
The women had just finished college and met Dowd in a bar in Ballybofey.
Just after 4pm on September 21st, the 24-year-old drove Maria’s car at speed out the Glenfin Road narrowly avoiding a number of cars.
Despite pleas from the two women to him to slow down, Dowd lost control of the Citreon car and struck a lamppost.
Both women were thrown from the car with Kiara being killed instantly while Maria was rushed to hospital only to pass away a short time later.
Despicable Dowd initially claimed to Gardai that it was Maria who was driving the car.
He eventually admitted being drunk, driving dangerously, having no license and not being insured.
On Friday he was sentenced to a total of 6 years in jail with the last 12 months suspended and also banned from driving for 15 years.
The mothers of both victims bravely gave victim impact statements and told how Dowd’s manic driving had changed their lives forever.
Tracey Baird told a hushed courtroom how she slept beside her daughter when she arrived home to be waked at the family home in Ballybofey.
She had identified her daughter, Kiara’s body, on the morning after the car crash. “I remember not wanting it to be her.
“Kiara’s body arrived home that night and we laid her out in her bedroom for her wake.
“I slept beside her for them few nights and I still haven’t left her room. I have slept there ever since.”
Kiara’s room remains the same. “Her clothes are still in her wardrobe and chest of drawers. Her bath towel still hangs where she left it.”
Tracy would never forget the day her daughter’s life was claimed.
“It was a Wednesday, like any other. I had met Kiara while I was driving my younger daughter to school, it was around 1 o’clock.
“It was pouring rain, so I pulled into a near-by parking space beside her. I told her to get into the car, she was soaking wet.
“She said, she had just finished her course and she was going for a drink with her course mate, Maria. Maria had been upset and she wanted to stay with her.
‘I’ll be grand, Ma, I’ll be home in a while.’
Her mother was unsure, however, but said to her: “I’ll see you later and I love you, mind yourself. I’ll have your dinner ready.
“That was the last time I saw Kiara alive.”
She still thinks about why she had not persuaded her to get into the car with her.
“I should have told her to phone me, so I could collect her. I should have phoned her when I got home to make sure she was okay. I shouldn’t have made her start her new course in hospitality.
“I shouldn’t have ever moved her to Donegal.”
The family had decided to make that move to Donegal because where they lived in Dublin, was “getting rough and hazardous”.
“We moved to Donegal. Kiara was not happy, but I told her it was a new life for us. I just wanted a better life for her and her brother.
“It was a hard move for all of us, but I thought at the time it was for the best.”
Tracy had been diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer and at seven months pregnant had a C-section so she could start chemotherapy straight away.
“It was a hard time for all of us, but we got through it as a family. I was given the all clear in January 2016.
“I thought of the possibility of me dying and now I think now maybe it should have been me. I was the one who was sick, Kiara was full of life and was only starting to live.”
In her victim impact statement, Trace said she had lost people in her life who she truly cared about but the loss of Kiara was nothing she had ever experienced.
“It’s like something broke into my chest and just ripped out my heart”.
All her, Tracy’s, decisions had brought them to that day where her life was taken. “I can never tell her how sorry I am, or how much I love and miss her.
“I can never again just hug her and hold her, tell her how proud I am of her and how losing her has had a huge impact on our family and friends.”
On the day of the crash, Tracy and her son, Cian, had gone in the car to collect her other daughter, Kayleigh, from school.
“A Garda car was outside and two Guards were walking towards us. We were asked by them, who we were, and the politely asked to go back to the house.
“I got really nervous and started calling for my partner, Karl. I knew there was something wrong.
“’There’s been a crash’, the Guard said. I immediately thought of my mam and her partner, who was out shopping.
“It’s Kiara’. My heart stopped. I jumped up as I immediately wanted to go to her, but this was not to be.
She would never forget that day. “It wasn’t real, it could not be real. My baby girl can not be gone.”
The Gardai had asked her to stay at the house. “Not knowing at the time, my baby girl was lying not five minutes walk away from our home.
“It will always play on my mind how close she was to home, and why I listened and didn’t go to look for her.”
They pass the scene of the crash everyday. “A smelly truck-stop is where my baby girl’s life was taken. Where on occasions, people find it amusing to rip up flowers that had been left or hid and throw away the plaque, Mary, Maria’s mum, put there.”
Cian, meanwhile, had heard most of the details about the crash on his bus to school. “It broke my heart when he told me his sister had crashed into a pole and died.”
Christmas had been hard.
“Every ad on the tele, every movie, every song, I just wanted to curl up in a ball.”
She would always keep Kiara in her heart and thoughts.
“But there is always an empty chair in our home.”
Her motherly instincts and aching pain were echoed by Mary McGonagle, the mother of Maria Wallace.
She revealed how her first daughter had died of a cot death aged seven months.
“So when I gave birth to Maria, I poured every bit of love in my body on her,” she said.
She also revealed how Maria, a mum of three boys, battled cancer twice but will never see her sons grow up.
“My darling Maria will never see how well her boys are doing, she will never see them getting married and she will never hold any grandchildren in her arms,” she added.
Ms McGonagle said she was so proud when her daughter started college but now she wishes she never had.
“When she started college, I told her how proud I was of her every day but I also told her not to get used or to be taken for granted.
“Now I wish she had never started college and she would still be here with me.
“I can no longer listen to music or watch things on TV that we used to watch together.”
She then pleaded with Judge John Aylmer to give both families justice for all they have been through.
“Please Your HOnour, all I want is justice because for me there is no pills or operation I could have to heal my broken heart.
“All I do now is to stand by Maria’s grave and cry alone. On the day of my baby’s funeral, I would have given anything to keep her coffin in my room to be near her. I still wish I could,” she said.