Ex-army commander ‘presumed dead’ with ‘devastating injuries’ after A55 hit and ran

A “despicable” driver was jailed after colliding with a cyclist on the A55 before driving away from the scene. William Jones, 61, rammed into his victim, a former Irish Guards major, then “left him for dead” and checked into a Holyhead hotel.

Jones, Goodman Street, Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, said he thought he had hit a bollard in the incident near Holyhead last year. A passerby stopped and dialed 999, saving the life of Major Cathal O’Reilly, 51, who had just cycled from his London home less than four miles from the Holyhead ferry to Ireland and was seriously injured.

Major O’Reilly, who had captained the Irish Guards and Sandhurst rowing crews in his youth, said he had unexpectedly gone from being pleased with his journey to fighting for his life. Today, Jones pleaded guilty at Caernarfon Magistrate’s Court to a series of offences.

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He was jailed for 12 weeks for failing to stop at the scene of an accident and another 12 weeks, at the same time, for failing to report an accident. He was also charged with driving without due care and attention and driving without insurance, but did not face any additional penalties for these offenses.

Prosecutor Diane Williams told the court the incident occurred as Jones, who was also on his way to Ireland, was driving his Peugeot car on the Caergeiliog slip road near Valley on September 19 last year.

She said a member of the public saw debris in the road around 8:25 p.m. that night. She stopped and saw what she thought was yellow trash, but she realized it was someone in a high visibility jacket.

She noticed that she was having difficulty breathing. Her right foot seemed to be facing in the wrong direction. A couple arrived and then a lifeguard.

He was taken by paramedics to Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor and transferred to Royal Stoke University Hospital. Maj O’Reilly had broken her back, pelvis and leg and underwent 22 hours of surgery in the first two days of treatment.

North Wales Police tracked Jones’s car to a Premier Inn hotel in Holyhead. He said that he had drunk cider at the hotel and that there was “significant” damage to his car. In a victim statement, Maj O’Reilly said he had gone from feeling “satisfied” traveling from London five miles from Holyhead in 32 hours to “unexpectedly fighting for his life on the side of the road”.

He added that he had suffered his first concussion in the accident “despite 20 years playing rugby, skiing, four operational tours and British Army exercises”. He said: “Before the accident I was fit and healthy.

“Now I’m lucky to be alive.” He had skin grafts and his right leg appears to have a “rugby sock stuck under the skin”.

Maj O’Reilly graduated from Trinity College, Dublin and Sandhurst and rose to the rank of Major in the Irish Guards for 12 years. She later became a business consultant.

Of the collision, he said: “We are all human and we make mistakes. I cannot and will not accept that someone who lives in the same society as me (can go to a hotel) without calling the emergency services.” He questioned how the driver could pay the ferry fare but not pay the car insurance.

He feels “shame and contempt that this man is British”. As for his injuries, he feels pain and struggles at times to get to the bathroom in time.

He said, “I don’t want to smell urine for the rest of my life.” His wife and daughter have become his “babysitters,” he added. However, he praised his savior, adding, “I feel indescribable gratitude for the exceptional woman who stopped and asked for help.”

Chris Dawson, on defense, said it was a sad case after a “moment of carelessness”. His unemployed client had thought he had hit a bollard and was “horrified” when he realized he had hit a bicyclist.

He accepts that the injuries were “devastating”. Chief Magistrates Richard Farmer said the only appropriate punishment was immediate custody.

But when Jones was taken to cells, Dawson said he would appeal the sentence in crown court and applied for bail pending the appeal. After considering the request, the magistrates refused but said the appeal would be heard as soon as possible.

He was banned from driving for 12 months after he got out of jail.

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