Co Armagh double murder jury sent home

Published Monday, 02 December 2013
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The jury in the trial of four brothers accused of murdering a convicted sex offender and his girlfriend in an alleged revenge attack seven years ago has retired for the day and is to reconvene on Tuesday for deliberations.

The six women and six men hearing the trial in Armagh Crown Court retired at 12pm after Judge Mr Justice Weatherup gave them instructions in how to apply the law to the facts.

The judge told the jury that depending on their assessment of the three weeks of evidence, they could convict the brothers on murder, manslaughter or even attempted murder.

The Smith brothers - Martin, 40, from Kevlin Glen, near Omagh, 37-year-old Niall, Christopher, 33, and Stephen, 31 all from the Mourneview estate in Clady, - all denied murdering Thomas O'Hare and his girlfriend Lisa McClatchey and committing arson with intent to endanger life.

It is the Crown's case that they launched their murderous attack in revenge for the sexual abuse Thomas perpetrated on Stephen Smith in the late 80s and early 90s.

Seven years ago, 33-year-old Thomas and his girlfriend Lisa, 21 were attacked and horrifically burned after masked men burst into Thomas's home on the Foley Road near the village of Tassagh.

They attacked Thomas and then poured petrol all over the house.

Within days of the attack, the couple succumbed to multiple organ failure, brought about by burns to 80% of their bodies, injuries described by State Pathologist for Northern Ireland Prof Jack Crane as injuries which "invariably prove fatal".

On Monday, with the court room packed with relatives and friends of the defendants and those related to the victims as well as extra uniformed police officers drafted in, Mr Justice Weatherup said that to convict the brothers of murder, the jury must be satisfied that they intended to kill Thomas O'Hare and that one of them deliberately ignited the petrol, describing that murder had two ingredients, "the guilty mind and the guilty act".

He told the jury if they believed instead that, as they claimed, the brothers intended to burn the house down rather than kill and that the spreading of the petrol was "unlawful and dangerous" but not deliberately lit, then it was open to them to convict of manslaughter.

The judge said a third option was attempted murder, describing to the jury that even though both Thomas and Lisa died, if they were satisfied there was an intention to kill but that the petrol exploded prematurely and accidentally, then a verdict of guilty of attempted murder was open to them as well.

Mr Justice Weatherup reminded the jury that at all times, it was the prosecution's burden to prove the case against the defendants and that for any guilty verdicts on any charge, they had to be "satisfied beyond reasonable doubt".

After three hours of deliberations, the judge sent the jury home for the day and asked them to return on Tuesday to continue their deliberations.

He warned them not to talk about the case but to "leave it out of your minds as best you can until tomorrow."

The trial continues.

© UTV News
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