'Every day you wait for the phone call': family pleads for answers after fatal Mayfield hit-and-run

BERNIE Farrell was fit and healthy with a “heart of gold”.

An Abermain boy, he toughed it out as one of seven sons in a Hunter coal mining family, before flying the nest and later joining the Royal Australian Air Force.

He was a “great husband” who fathered two children and had a granddaughter. 

He was tough but “generous to a fault”.

That is what Mr Farrell’s devastated family wants to show the driver who left him behind in a bloodied mess.

The 91-year-old was struck by a hit-and-run driver on a Mayfield street on November 24, and police are stepping up the investigation into his death.

The tragedy has left his family feeling an “emptiness” at not having him around.

Donna Bartley holds a picture of her father, Bernie Farrell, who died after he was hit by a hit-and-run driver. Picture: Marina Neil

Donna Bartley holds a picture of her father, Bernie Farrell, who died after he was hit by a hit-and-run driver. Picture: Marina Neil

His death has also left them on edge as daughter Donna Bartley waits every day for closure in the form of a phone call from investigators to tell them they’ve got the driver.

For four months, that crucial phone call hasn’t come.

Mr Farrell died in John Hunter Hospital after suffering a heart attack three days after he was struck by the car as he crossed Stedman Street on his way to get a haircut. No one has come forward to claim responsibility for the crash.

“Every day you wait for the phone call to say, ‘We’ve got the driver’,” Mrs Bartley told the Newcastle Herald.

“Every day people are asking us if anything more has happened. If they’ve found anyone. It’s become a waiting game.”

Waiting game

A highly stressful waiting game.

She said she hasn’t rested since the moment police knocked on her door.

Initially she thought her father was taking a little while longer than usual getting a haircut, but everything changed when officers told her he had been struck by a hit-and-run driver.

Mr Farrell was alert and still “quite with it” mentally after the crash, his daughter said. The doctors had planned on doing some tests to see if they could operate, but his condition began to deteriorate.

“On Monday morning I got a phone call to say he was in the throes of a massive heart attack,” she said. “He didn’t make it.”

Vincent Rossetti witnessed the hit-and-run accident and says the driver must come forward. Picture: Marina Neil

Vincent Rossetti witnessed the hit-and-run accident and says the driver must come forward. Picture: Marina Neil

Each day has been hard. But the family has new hope as Newcastle City detectives set up a strike force to investigate Mr Farrell’s death.

Strike Force Petro aims to bring the driver to justice.

What is known is that the driver was turning onto Stedman Street from Maitland Road, Mayfield West, in a new model red Mitsubishi ASX when they hit Mr Farrell about 12.45pm.

CCTV footage shows the car continued driving west on Stedman Street before turning onto nearby Adrian Street.

The car – which has since been seized – was rented from a Hunter car hire business.

Out of sight ‘within a minute’

Witnesses say the driver stopped briefly before fleeing the scene. He was out of sight “within a minute”.

An employee of the nearby Newcastle Hand Car Wash cafe gave chase but was unsuccessful.

Vincent Rossetti recalled being inside the cafe area when the chaos unfolded.

“It was terrible,” he said.

“One of the men jumped in their car and started to give chase but it was no use. 

“They were already gone.”

He said the incident has stuck with him since that day.

“It’s always at the back of your mind,” he said.

“I’ve thought about it a lot – you just think about how he passed and the fact the driver didn’t have the decency to stop.

CCTV footage of the red Mitsubishi police believe hit Mr Farrell.

CCTV footage of the red Mitsubishi police believe hit Mr Farrell.

“It makes you feel ill.

“The driver should do the right thing.”

Mr Rossetti added: “The family needs closure.”

‘Have a conscience’: police

Investigators are appealing for anyone who saw the vehicle or has information about the driver to come forward.

Mrs Bartley said the family could not rest until they found the driver.

“Just have a heart,” she said. “Accidents happen. I can’t imagine you would have aimed for him or done it on purpose [but] you’ve got to live with it like we all have to live with it. Man up. If you know who it is, if he’s told anyone, please come forward. 

“Let us put him to rest peacefully.”

Strike Force Petro officer-in-charge Detective Sergeant Kelvin Wink added: “Have a conscience and come and speak to us.”  

Anyone with information who should contact Newcastle City detectives on 4929 0999 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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