Co Down pair charged with hammer attack

Aaron McMahon was hospitalised for treatment to facial injuries
Aaron McMahon was hospitalised for treatment to facial injuries

Two Bangor men have appeared in court accused of attacking a popular community leader who was beaten with hammers in front of his terrified family.

Standing in the dock at Newtownards Magistrates’ Court with six uniformed police officers sitting in the public gallery and four police cars outside the court, 28-year-old Keith Barnhurst and Christopher McKinstry, 26, confirmed they understood their respective charges.

Barnhurst, from Ballyferris Walk and McKinstry, from Churchill Park, both in the seaside town, are jointly charged with aggravated burglary when they were armed with hammers at a house on the Clandeboye Road with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm and attempting to inflict GBH on Aaron McMahon on November 25.

Barnhurst is further accused of possessing a weapon, namely a hammer, on the same date.

The charges arise after Mr McMahon, 45, who is known as the ‘Lion of Clandeboye’ due to his role as chairman of the Clandeboye Village Community Association, was working in the printing business below his house at around 4pm when two masked men burst through the doors.

His wife Michelle and their seven-year-old twins Lawton and Tallon could only watch as the men beat him with hammers, leaving him with injuries to his head and jaw.

Following the beating, Mr McMahon was hospitalised for treatment to facial injuries when his jaw and his head had to be stapled.

In the aftermath of the beating, other community representatives, MLAs and politicians held a vigil to show support for Mr McMahon.

A police constable said she knew the facts surrounding the charges and she believed she could connect the pair to them, while a prosecuting lawyer asked for the case to be adjourned for six weeks.

Applying for legal aid, defence solicitor Darren Duncan revealed that Barnhurst is on benefits and that McKinstry earns around £225 per week.

District Judge Mark Hamill said he was granting legal aid “given the seriousness of the charges” and in releasing Barnhurst and McKinstry on bail, ordered them to come back to court on April 13.

As part of their bail conditions, the men are barred from contacting prosecution witnesses and from entering the Clandeboye area of Bangor.