Teen not guilty of Traveller murder

Published Friday, 30 November 2012
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There was uproar in a Belfast court as a Londonderry teenager was cleared for the second time of involvement in the murder of Belfast Traveller John Mongan.

Teen not guilty of Traveller murder
John Mongan, pictured, was murdered in front of his partner. (© Pacemaker)

Mr Mongan was brutally hacked to death in front of his pregnant wife and young daughter, during an attack by three men in the early hours of 7 February, 2008.

As Martin Stokes, who was just 16 when originally convicted of the horrific killing along with his two uncles in December 2009, cheered the jury's verdict, family members of the murdered 30-year-old father of three cursed and lashed out at the decision.

Police and security staff were forced to keep the two families and their supporters apart, while several women were forced, screaming and shouting, from the public gallery of the Crown Court.

As the forewoman of the jury of six men and six women, who had taken just over two hours to reach their unanimous 'not guilty' decision, announced their verdict, Stokes turned to family and friends, punching the air and gave a clenched fisted victory salute as he shouted out: "Yes".

Still in the dock, he turned to the jury to call his thanks.

"Thank-you, thank-you," he repeatedly shouted.

Thank you for proving my innocence.

Martin Stokes to jury

Then as he was cursed from the public gallery, he turned once more to the jury telling them: "That's what you have to deal with."

Later Stokes, from the Glendale Road, Co Londonderry had to be escorted from court by several police officers.

Stokes, who made no comment as he left flanked by the police guard, was originally convicted of Mr Mongan's murder with his uncles Christopher Stokes, 37, and Edward Stokes, 41, but the Court of Appeal later ordered a re-trial in his case.

Mr Mongan was killed in the bedroom of his home in Fallswater Street in west Belfast, in front of his seven-year-old daughter and wife Julia, who was due to give birth the following day.

During this trial, which started on 6 November, the court heard that Mrs Mongan claimed that she recognised the voice of Stokes, who is her cousin.

By their verdict the jury have rejected her evidence and instead accepted Martin Stokes' claim he was asleep on a sofa in his sister's home at the time of the murderous attack, which arose because of so-called "bad blood" between Mr Mongan and the Stokes family.

© UTV News
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