Two men standing trial for the claw hammer murder of a north Belfast man have been accused of concocting lies in the direct aftermath of the “brutal killing”.
Eamonn Ferguson died in the living room of a house in the Ardoyne area of the city in March 2014.
Louis Maguire, 28, whose address was given as HMP Maghaberry, and his 33-year-old co-accused Christopher Power, of no fixed abode and who is originally from Co Offaly, have both denied involvement in the murder of Mr Ferguson.
However, a jury at Belfast Crown Court was told by a prosecution barrister that Mr Ferguson “died an unnatural death in a merciless attack at the hands of Maguire and Power”.
“They were present when he was slaughtered in the front living room of Louis Maguire’s house. They were in it together, they concocted a story, they lied at the scene and they lied in their police interviews.”
Ciaran Murphy QC said it was the Crown’s case that despite claims by the pair that they were not present when Mr Ferguson was attacked, forensic evidence including blood spatters on their clothing indicated they were in the room when the victim was repeatedly struck on the head with a claw hammer.
The jury heard that when the emergency services arrived at the scene, they discovered Mr Ferguson lying face down in a pool of blood in the living room with “unsurvivable” injuries.
There were no signs of a struggle, with blood splattered across the walls, ceiling and floor of the room.
A pathologist concluded that Mr Ferguson – an otherwise healthy young man – was struck at least nine times on the head with the hammer. His wounds were so severe that his skull had been fractured in several places, leaving brain matter exposed.
He also displayed injuries to his face consistent with being hit with a hammer, as well as bruising to his hand, which may have been sustained while he tried to defend himself.
Setting out the case against the accused pair, Mr Murphy said the alarm was raised in the early hours of Saturday March 15, 2014 by Maguire who called 999. He said he had returned home to find his friend Eamonn Ferguson lying in a pool of blood in the living room of his Ardoyne Place home.
The emergency services arrived at around 3am, and Mr Ferguson was pronounced dead at the scene. A police officer at the scene recalled seeing Maguire and Power standing outside the house, with Maguire “screaming and shouting” and in a “hysterical way”.
Another officer said Maguire made several attempts to go back into the house as he said wanted to give his friend Eamonn a hug.
Maguire told police at the scene that he and Power had been out drinking, and when they returned home his key wouldn’t work in the front door. After trying to kick his front door in, he went round the back, gained entry, and discovered his friend in the living room.
Both men were seen to be unsteady on their feet and drunk. As they were not detained at that stage, they left the area and walked a short distance to the house of a friend, who refused them entry. They then called to the home of a relative of Maguire’s, with Maguire telling him “there is a dead body in my house”. He also showed the relative his blood-stained hands.
As the pair then made their way back to Ardoyne Place, they were both arrested on suspicion of murder. Witnesses describe Power as being “generally quiet” whilst Maguire was “hysterical and loud”.
During police interviews, Power said he had been staying in a hostel in Belfast but had moved into Maguire’s around the 11th or 12th of March. He said he knew Mr Ferguson from the Ardoyne area, and that on Friday March 14 he had been drinking in Belfast city centre.
Power also said he suffered from blackouts, and that he couldn’t remember what happened between leaving the city centre and standing outside Maguire’s house after finding Mr Ferguson.
Maguire – who the jury heard was interviewed at length and on several occasions – claimed he had been drinking with Power and Mr Ferguson on Friday March 14, and they had all gone back to his house. He said that at some stage Mr Ferguson, who lived at nearby Holmdene Gardens, had fallen asleep and that he had got him pillows and blankets to make his friend more comfortable.
He said that in the early hours of Saturday March 15, he and Power had gone to a local pub for cigarettes, and when they returned to his house, his key wouldn’t work in the front door, which prompted him to go round the back. It was then he made the discovery.
Prosecutor Ciaran Murphy said Maguire denied involvement, instead making the case that someone must have come to his house to attack him, but “got” Eamonn Ferguson “by mistake”.
This claim, the Crown said, was a lie as both Maguire and Power were “in the house and were present when Mr Ferguson was beaten to death with a hammer ... the presence of blood upon their clothing establishes their presence”.
Mr Murphy said the blood found on the clothing of both men was consistent with ‘cast-off’ stains caused by, for example, the “exaggerated swings” of a hammer repeatedly striking the back of someone’s head.