Skip to content

Dad who dreamed of walking daughter down aisle had to push her coffin instead

Spread the love
Jillian called 999 while Michael Collins ‘played chicken’ with other road users as he tried a evade police (Image: Irish Mirror)

\A devastated dad who dreamed of walking his daughter down the aisle had to push her coffin instead after she was killed in a car crash.

Derek Thornton made the poignant gesture at daughter Jillian’s funeral after the car she was a passenger in was involved in a high-speed police chase.

“Kind and trusting” Jillian, 20, made two desperate 999 calls from the back seat of the car as drug-fuelled driver Michael Collins appeared to ‘play chicken’ with other vehicles as he tried to evade police.

She was still on the 999 call as the Mitsubishi Colt she was travelling in smashed into a Volkswagen Passat in Duleek, Co Meath and ejected her from the car and into a ditch in May, 2016.

Jillian’s heartbroken family is speaking out to raise awareness about road safety, pictured left to right: Derick (brother), Elaine (sister), Lorraine (mother), Derek Thornton (father)

Just hours earlier Jillian had spent the afternoon with sister Elaine who helped put her favourite false eyelashes on ready to go out.

And in preparation for her funeral, brave Elaine insisted on doing her sister’s hair and make-up to ‘so she would look like herself again’.

“She was just laid out on the table,” Elaine said.

“It took about two hours to curl her hair and do her make-up because I kept having to leave the room to be sick.

“I just couldn’t believe what was happening.

“But I wanted her to look like herself before taking her home.

Dad Derek pushed his daughter’s coffin down the aisle after she died in the car crash 
“I used her own make-up and I left on the eyelashes I put on her the day she died.

“She loved her eyelashes. She was much girlier than me.

“We buried her in her darts shirt. She was great at darts. She helped set up a youth darts club and took our brother, who has special needs to tournaments.

“Because of her support he made it to Special Olympics events. She was always ready to help people.

“Our dad would never get to walk Jillian down the aisle at her wedding so we got her a white coffin and he pushed her down the aisle at her funeral instead.”

The fatal crash followed a 25 minute pursuit through Drogheda and east Meath, Ireland, which began when Collins failed to stop for police after driving the wrong way on a roundabout.

Michael Collins was found guilty of dangerous driving causing the death of 20 year old Jillian Thornton 

Jillian was filmed in a harrowing Snapchat video as she cried for help on the phone while blue lights flashed behind her.

Collins and the front seat passenger in the car survived the carnage.

Following a 13 day trial in March, Collins, 44, was found guilty of 16 charges, including death by dangerous driving, two charges of endangerment, 12 charges of dangerous driving and driving under the influence of an intoxicant.

He was sentenced today to fifteen years in jail with one year suspended.

He was also convicted on two charges of endangerment, 12 charges of dangerous driving and driving under the influence of an intoxicant.

Jillian’s family had to sit in horror as her dying screams, captured in the 999 call, were played out in Trim Circuit Court.

Her final moments now haunt sister Elaine, 29, who has chosen to speak out about her beloved sister’s death in the hope that their tragedy can save even one life.

“The sentence he got will never be good enough because we will be left without our Gillian forever,” Elaine said.

“As soon as she called the police she was begging for him to stop the car.

“She was like a banshee.

Sister Elaine says she misses “the small things the most” like Jillian’s “cackling laugh” and arguing over the last drink can in the fridge 
Jillian’s death has devastated her family and friends 

“She was terrified. You could hear it in the tapes. She knew she was going to die.

“It was like listening to a horror movie.

“Hearing her screams was the worst thing. All I wanted to do was help her but I couldn’t.

“She was screaming and crying “a lorry is coming towards us, please, please stop,” as they almost crashed into another vehicle.

“Hearing those calls has stolen all my good memories of Jillian. Now I can only hear her screams. I can’t sleep. When I close my eyes I hear her.”

Elaine spent that last afternoon with her sister at home in Drogheda before she left for a hen party in Dublin.

Jillian was killed in Duleek, Co Meath 
“It was the first time I had left the kids in 11 years,” Elaine said.

“But I didn’t feel right that evening. Maybe Jillian was trying to tell me something.

“At about 1.45am mum called and said Jillian had been in a crash.

“I got in a taxi and came straight to the hospital.

“Her body was still warm when I got to the morgue that night.

“She had a broken neck, broken ribs, her brain and lungs were full of blood but her face and hands were perfect.

“She was still wearing the false eyelashes I had put on her earlier that day.

“I just cried.”

Elaine said that the family will never recover from Jillian’s death, and their pain was made all the sharper by her killer’s ‘remorseless’ attitude throughout the funeral and the trial.

“He (Collins) has taken our whole family from us,” Elaine said.

“He killed a part of us all when he killed Jillian that night.

“But he showed no remorse. He didn’t care. When he was interviewed by Gardai he didn’t even know her name – he just called her ‘the other girl’.

“And he put us through the torment of a trial. He could have held his hands up and said ‘I’ve killed her’ and saved us so much pain. But instead he tried to blame everyone else.

“Jillian was the kindest person you’d ever meet. She just had this aura about her. She’d always make you feel good about yourself.

“Her only down side was that she’d put her trust in anyone.

“Trusting that driver was the one mistake Jillian made that night and she paid with her life.

“She had never met Michael Collins before but she knew the other passenger.

“Now, we want to warn everyone to always make sure you trust the person you’re getting in a car with.

“Make sure you know the driver. And call the police immediately if you’re in a car where you fear for your life.

Jillian called 999 while Michael Collins ‘played chicken’ with other road users as he tried a evade police 

“If we can get this message out there and save just one person from dying on the roads that would be something.”

Elaine said that dealing with her sister’s death has not got easier with time.

“Now I constantly feel like I’m stuck in a nightmare, I wish I could pinch myself to wake up from it but I can’t,” Elaine said.

“I’m stuck back on that day in May 2016. People go on living around you.

“You get good at faking a smile but nothing feels right anymore.”

“Occasions are the hardest time. We all used to spend Christmas together at mum and dad’s house but now they spend Christmas locked away in a hotel room.

Facebook Comments Box
(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Powered By Alvary Creatives

Translate page»