‘Fears for safety’ of man accused of Coleraine murder

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A defence lawyer for a man charged with murder in Coleraine claimed there are “genuine concerns” for the safety of the accused.

He was speaking at Coleraine Magistrates Court on Monday where Rchard Dalzell (36), a window cleaner of Whinpark Road, Newtownards, appeared for his latest hearing.

Dalzell is currently on bail charged with murdering Mark Lamont (54) in Coleraine on September 26 this year.

The accused was present in court to hear a prosecutor to say a full file in the case has not been received yet and she requested further time to deal with the case.

The court heard Dalzell is next due in court in Coleraine in February and he left the courtroom on Monday before his defence lawyer asked District Judge Liam McNally if his client could be excused from attending on the next date because of “genuine concerns for his own safety”.

The lawyer said police had raised security concerns regarding Dalzell’s previous court appearance in Coleraine on October 31 and additional PSNI resources were drafted in at the courthouse on that occasion when there were “incidents”.

Judge McNally said he could only consider such a matter if the accused was present in the courtroom. Court staff were asked to see if Dalzell was still close by but they said he had left the building by that stage.

At Halloween there were tense scenes in the grounds of Coleraine Magistrates Court when remarks were shouted at Dalzell.

Although Dalzell is banned from entering Coleraine as part of bail conditions he was allowed to return to the town for a short court appearance where his case was further adjourned.

On October 31, a large number of police officers were present in the court waiting room area and also in the courtroom when Dalzell appeared.

Members of the deceased’s family were present in the court and as Dalzell was released on continuing bail, one family member followed him outside and shouted remarks at him including the words “f--king scumbag”.

The man was surrounded by ten police officers in the grounds of the court who ordered him not to leave until Dalzell, who was accompanied by a man, left the area.

There had been similar scenes at Ballymena Magistrates Court previously when Dalzell first appeared in court on the murder charge.

Mark Lamont, a father of three and a grandfather, died on October 11 following an incident at Ballycastle Road, Coleraine, on September 26.

Dalzell was released on bail the High Court where prosecutors claimed Dalzell launched a fatal attack after Mark Lamont returned to a house on Coleraine’s Ballycastle Road for a second time.

A neighbour reported seeing Mr Lamont’s head being jumped on during a street fight in the early hours of September 26 and the Coleraine man died in hospital on October 11.

At the High Court, Dalzell was granted bail on “draconian” conditions which include being banned from the entire Causeway Coast and Glens area.

The accused denies murder, insisting he acted in self-defence.

He had spent the day leading up to the alleged attack drinking with a woman at the Forge Bar in Coleraine.

Prosecution counsel Conor Maguire told the High Court they left following a verbal altercation with three men, who included Mr Lamont and an ex-partner of the woman.

Dalzell was punching shop shutters in an agitated state as they went back to a woman’s Ballycastle Road home, the court heard.

It was claimed that shortly after they arrived back three hooded men, one of whom was the deceased, entered the property without invitation.

“They discovered this applicant and the woman having sexual intercourse on the kitchen table,” Mr Maguire said.

All three men exited following a minor physical and verbal confrontation with Dalzell, the court heard.

But according to the prosecution Mr Lamont was subjected to a serious assault when he returned to the house.

In statements to police the woman alleged Dalzell punched him to the ground outside and then delivered a kick as he lay on the footpath.

Another witness told of seeing a well-built man jumping on Mr Lamont’s head.

“She described this male as putting a lot of effort into this so he could really hurt Mr Lamont,” Mr Maguire said.

The neighbour, who rang for an ambulance, went out and discovered the victim on the ground making a “snoring” sound with blood coming from his head, the court was told.

Forensic tests showed footwear marks on the dead man’s head and clothing.

During police interviews Dalzell admitted punching and wrestling with Mr Lamont, but could not recall any stamping.

Mrs Justice Keegan was told the accused described it as a fight where “you do these things in the heat of the moment”.

Dalzell also stated: “He was breathing and trying to get up, I was doing what I was doing to keep him down.

“I won, I got the better of him. We had a fight, he lost.”

Also at the earlier High Court hearing, Mark Farrell, defending, revealed that a second autopsy had found no footwear marks on the deceased’s head or face.

He also claimed conflicting witness accounts posed a problem for the prosecution.

Mr Farrell insisted his client gave police a full and frank account of acting in self-defence.

The barrister described Dalzell as a family man whose partner has forgiven the “indiscretion” of his actions in the other woman’s house.

Claiming the accused had shown restraint on the night, he continued: “They go back there, they have sex in the kitchen... and their privacy was fundamentally invaded by the three masked men who we know are the three men in the bar earlier, including the deceased.”

Mr Farrell alleged that Dalzell was threatened and told he would be “cut up” during the incident.

Granting bail at the High Court, Mrs Justice Keegan ordered the accused to put up a £2,000 cash surety, surrender his passport and abide by a curfew and electronic monitoring.

Banning him from contacting any witnesses or entering the entire Causeway Coast area, she had said: “I appreciate these are extremely draconian conditions, but that reflects the nature of this case.”