Men admit lesser charges on McDaid

Published Tuesday, 06 May 2014
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Nine men facing charges arising from the death of Catholic community worker Kevin McDaid have pleaded guilty to a number of offences linked to the father-of-four's death.

However, none ended up pleading to the two more serious charges of causing his manslaughter and of attempting to murder his friend Damien Fleming.

Although no details were given during Tuesday's hearing at Belfast Crown Court, a preliminary enquiry into Mr McDaid's death was told that he was targeted in May 2009 when a group of men claiming to be from the UDA launched a violent attack near his home in the Heights, Coleraine.

During the hearing earlier this year, witnesses claimed that Mr McDaid's wife Evelyn was also beaten whilst attempting to aid her husband, while Mr Fleming's head was kicked "like a rugby ball".

Mr McDaid collapsed and died after the incident, which occurred on the same day as the Scottish Premier League football title was decided between rivals Rangers and Celtic.

Tuesday's proceedings in front of Mr Justice Weatherup began when legal representatives for four of the accused asked that their clients be re-arraigned.

These first four were 28-year-old Aaron Thomas Beech, 47-year-old Ivan Beattie McDowell, 23-year old David Craig Cochrane and Rodney Gardner who is 46.

All four men initially faced a series of charges including the manslaughter of Mr McDaid and attempting to murder his friend Damien Fleming.

Beech, from John Street in Ballymena, pleaded guilty to three counts - causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Mr Fleming, assaulting Mr McDaid causing him actual bodily harm and causing an affray on 24 May, 2009.

Also admitting to a charge of causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Mr Fleming was Ivan McDowell, from Taggart Mews in Main Street, Ballymoney.

Crown prosecutor Ciaran Murphy QC told Mr Justice Weatherup that the guilty charges were being accepted, and asked that several remaining counts against the two men - which included manslaughter and attempted murder - be left on the books, not to be proceeded with.

David Craig Cochrane from Windyhall Park in Coleraine and Rodney Gardner from Knocklynn Grange in Coleraine were re-arraigned on a charge of causing an affray on May 2009.

They both pleaded guilty to the single charge, and after this plea was accepted by the Crown, the remaining charges that they faced, including manslaughter and attempted murder, were left on the books.

Legal representatives for all four men asked that pre-sentence reports be prepared.

Mr Justice Weatherup then released them on continued bail. Following a short adjournment, two more men pleaded guilty to lesser charges, followed by another adjournment.

This set the pattern for the hearing for the rest of the day, as the Judge granted lawyers time to have further discussions with the remaining clients, before they requested their clients be re-arraigned.

James McAfee, who is 32 and from Lisnablagh Road in Coleraine and 38-year old Christopher McDowell from Castle Walk Mews in Castlerock each originally faced a number of charges which included manslaughter, attempted murder and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

Both men were re-arraigned and pleaded guilty to a single charge of affray, and after this was accepted by the Crown, the more serious charges against the pair were left on the books.

After a request was made for the preparation of pre-sentence reports, continuing bail was granted, with the Judge telling the court: "These two defendants may leave the dock."

Co-accused Johnathon Sterling faced two charges arising from the death of Mr Fleming - threatening to kill Marion O'Neill and threatening to harm her, on 29 June 2010.

The 25-year-old, from Windyhall Park Coleraine, was re-arraigned and pleaded guilty to making a threat to harm, and after this was accepted by the Crown, the count of making a threat to kill was left on the books.

A pre-sentence report will be prepared on Sterling, who was released on continuing bail.

The next defendant to be re-arraigned was 24-year-old John Freeman, from Sunderland Road in Belfast. Freeman admitted intimidating witnesses on 29 June, 2010 and also pleaded guilty to a charge of a common assault on Sonia O'Neill on the same day.

Two charges of making a threat to kill were left on the books after the Crown accepted the guilty pleas. He was also released on continuing bail and pre-sentence reports were ordered.

The final man to be re-arraigned was 53-year-old Frank Daly from Oakland Walk in Coleraine, who initially faced seven charges including manslaughter and attempted murder.

Daly was re-arraigned and pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Mr Fleming, assaulting both Kevin McDaid and his wife Evelyn causing them both actual bodily harm, and also causing an affray.

The crown prosecutor told the court the pleas were accepted, and asked that the remaining charges be left on the books.

A pre-sentence report will be prepared on Daly and he was told he was free to go, on continued bail.

Five remaining defendants are due to face trial on a range of offences including the manslaughter of Mr McDaid and the attempted murder of Mr Fleming. All five deny the charges against them.

They are 34-year old John Thompson from Knocknougher Road in Macosquin, John McGrath who is 55 and from Knock Road in Ballymoney, 49-year-old Paul Andrew Newman from Nursery Avenue in Ballymoney, 39-year old Philip Edwin Kane from Danes Hill Road in Coleraine and David James John Cochrane who is 52 and from Windyhall Park in Coleraine.

The case is due to be listed before the court again later this week, when a pre-trial application is expected to be heard.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
3 Comments
Mike in Belfast wrote (107 days ago):
Wheres our First Minister with an offer of help for the Mcdaid family,,oh I forgot there would be no votes for him in this,, and Gregory Campbell the local M.P. has been conspicuous by his silence,disgusting !!
francis in oz wrote (107 days ago):
what a joke,they all should get 20years,loyalist gang off thugs
John in Newtownabbey wrote (108 days ago):
Disgraceful that these thugs can escape justice. If anyone kicks another human being in the head, they are after only one outcome. It's high time the law recognised this instead of looking for an easy way out and allowing guilty pleas to lesser charges. If you kick a human being on the head or drop a breeze block on his head you are trying to kill, no more no less!
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