Nine jailed over Kevin McDaid killing

Published Tuesday, 01 July 2014
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Nine men have been jailed on various charges arising from the death of Catholic community worker Kevin McDaid, who died after he was targeted in a sectarian attack in Coleraine five years ago.

On Tuesday nine men were handed sentences which ranged from eight-and-a-half years to six months - while three other men who admitted charges linked to the incident walked free from court.

Those jailed on Tuesday were Aaron Thomas Beech, 28, from Hamilton Park Ballymoney; Frank Simpson Daly 53, from Cloneen Drive, Ballymoney; John Freeman, 24 from Tullans Park in Coleraine; Rodney Gardner, 47, from Knocklynn Grange in Coleraine; James McAfee, 33, from Lisnablagh Road in Coleraine; Ivan Beattie McDowell 47 also from Lisnablagh Road; John McGrath, 55 from Hawthorn Place in Coleraine; Paul Andrew Newman 49, from Cambridge Park in Coleraine and 34-year-old John Thompson from Main Street Coleraine.

Their offences included grievous bodily harm, assault, intimidation and affray.

David Craig Cochrane, 23, from Windyhall Park, Coleraine and 38-year-old Christopher McDowell from Willow Court in Coleraine were given suspended sentences for affray, while 25-year-old Jonathan Stirling, from Elms Park in the town, was given probation for his conviction of threats to harm.

The incident which claimed the life of Mr McDaid and almost resulted in the death of his friend Damien Fleming occurred in the Heights area of Coleraine on 24 May 2009.

Trouble flared following an Old Firm game between Rangers and Celtic, when a group of up to 40 loyalists arrived in the Heights area to remove Tricolour and Celtic flags that had been erected in the Somerset Drive area.

Mr Justice Weatherup told Belfast Crown Court a "confrontation took place between those who had gone to that area and a number of those who live in that area".

During the confrontation, both Mr McDaid and Mr Fleming were bought to the ground where they were kicked and punched and beaten with weapons.

Mr McDaid, a 49-year old father-of-four, had an underlying heart defect and while the Judge acknowledged he could have had a cardiac arrest at any time, he said the events of 24 May "undoubtedly brought on a heart attack".

Mr Justice Weatherup added that Mr McDaid's death "was a result of this incident."

Mr McDaid's wife Evelyn was also injured in the attack.

The Judge branded the fatal encounter as "undoubtedly an ugly sectarian attack" and said it was "fuelled by alcohol, which is so often the case when the courts are dealing these kind of incidents."

The court heard Damien Fleming sustained "very severe injuries" including a trauma to the brain and also suffered a heart attack.

He remained in a coma for four weeks in hospital and now requires permanent care. His sister also revealed that "Damien lost a part of himself in this attack".

He remained in a coma for four weeks in hospital and now requires permanent care.

The Judge said he has read Victim Impact Reports that were supplied to the court by both Evelyn McDaid and a sister of Damien Fleming.

He said: "They are two moving accounts of the impact these atrocities have had on the families of the victims."

Before passing sentence, Mr Justice Weatherup branded the events as "tragic" and said there were a "consequences of tensions" that "existed at the time in Coleraine and which undoubtedly still exist."

There was a heavy police presence in the packed public gallery, and measures were put in place to separate the family and friends of Mr McDaid and those who had come to support the 12 defendants.

A verbal altercation broke out before Mr Justice Weatherup had finished passing sentence, prompting him to call for quiet.

As nine of the men were jailed and the remaining three walked free from the dock, their friends and family began cheering and clapping from the public gallery.

This happened as those who had come to support the McDaid family made their way from the court.

© UTV News
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10 Comments
anonymous in Australia wrote (121 days ago):
disgusting! Justice system in Northern Ireland is a joke!
lucylou in belfast wrote (121 days ago):
the lenience of these sentences beggars belief.
Ann in the real world wrote (121 days ago):
Complete disgrace of a sentence.. Embarrassed to be from NI.
lorna in belfast wrote (121 days ago):
the justice sysytem here really needs change badly, how long has it taken to get this case to court? does that fact reduce the sentences? how can dangerous men confess to their crime and walk free? i'm at a loss to believe this can happen over and over again here!!
anon in portstewart wrote (121 days ago):
Maybe now it can be over and the man can rest in peace
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