Murder accused in Christmas party ban

Published Tuesday, 10 December 2013
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A tree surgeon accused of murder has been allowed to vary his bail conditions - but refused permission to go to a Christmas party while his soldier co-accused was refused bail altogether.

Murder accused in Christmas party ban
Lee Smyth, who was the victim of a vicious assault. (© Family photo)

Belfast Crown Court heard on Tuesday that 23-year-old Gareth McKinney, originally with an address at Charles Park, Portadown claims that his co-accused Michael Wilson, from Tandragee, was the attacker of 30-year-old Lee Smyth in the early hours of 6 June, 2010.

Although Mr Smyth survived the brutal attack in Armagh- in which his head was jumped on as if it were "a trampoline" - he was left in a vegetative state, and following two years in a coma, it was decided to halt his treatment, and he died on 12 June, 2012.

Mr Justice Weir allowed McKinney to return to live with his parents in Armagh, and to reduce his reporting to police from three times a week, to twice.

However, when asked by defence solicitor, Paul Haughey, if he could also go to a Christmas party, he replied: "Absolutely not."

He also warned McKinney that if he did not want to end up joining his co-accused Wilson, in jail for Christmas, he better keep to his bail conditions, which also includes an alcohol ban.

Mr Justice Weir had just refused Wilson, who is also 23, from Marlacoo Road in Tandragee, fresh bail. His original bail was revoked last month following three separate breaches.

Defence lawyer Joel Lyndsay said it was a difficult case, which Wilson himself was aware of and appreciated.

"If someone breaches bail, I revoke bail, that's my starting point", said Mr Justice Weir.

Later the judge explained that those granted bail made a bargain with the court to honour the conditions of their bail.

When those conditions were broken, he said, he kept his part of the bargain and "revoked bail and that's it".

Earlier, prosecution lawyer Michael Chambers explained that the victim, Mr Smyth, was found unconscious on a river pathway, known as The Folly, by a woman out walking her dog.

Although she knew him, he was so badly and severely beaten that she did not recognise him.

At the time, inquiries as to the identity of his attackers drew a blank.

Police opened a murder inquiry following his death two years later and in October 2012, a girl came forward claiming to have witnessed the attack, principally by Wilson, with McKinney allegedly joining in.

She told police that "these two men had kicked and stomped on Mr Smyth as he lay motionless and defenceless on the ground".

Mr Chambers added that the alleged witness further claimed that they "were jumping up and down on his head like a trampoline" and that essentially the meeting of the three men had been a chance encounter.

When later arrested, Wilson made "a no comment interview", while McKinney "gave a detailed account and admitted being present, but he said that Mr Wilson carried out the attack".

The lawyer said that last March, Wilson, who'd joined the army in the intervening period between the attack and his arrest, was granted High Court bail, with stringent conditions, including a ban on drinking alcohol, but that he twice breached that condition.

On one occasion he even put a car on its roof after an episode of drunk driving.

Although his bail was not revoked then, it eventually was when off-duty police caught him red-handed buying two bottles of beer in a hotel bar.

© UTV News
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