Pair are jailed for manslaughter of man who died two years after attack

Lee Smyth
Lee Smyth

Two men were yesterday jailed for the part they played in the manslaughter of Armagh man Lee Smyth, who died two years after receiving “catastrophic” head injuries in an early morning assault.

Michael Wilson, a 23-year old Royal Irish Regiment soldier from Marlacoo Road in Tandragee, and 24-year old tree surgeon Gareth McKinney, from Charles Park in Portadown, were initially both charged with murdering Mr Smyth.

However, as their trial at Armagh Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, was about to enter its second day earlier this year, they were re-arraigned and each pleaded guilty to a charge of manslaughter.

McKinney was handed a six-year sentence, half of which will be spent in custody with the remaining three years on supervised licence upon his release.

Wilson – who committed four further violent offences following the fatal attack on Mr Smyth – was handed a seven year sentence. As he was deemed by probation to pose a significant risk of serious harm to others, Mr Justice Weir told him that after serving half of his sentence, his eligibility for release would be determined by the Parole Commission.

Wilson will also serve an extended three years on licence when he is released from custody.

Mr Smyth, 32, instigated a fight with Wilson in the early hours of June 6, 2010, and after McKinney participated in the attack, the victim’s prone body was found beside the Folley River in Armagh by a woman walking her dog.

Mr Smyth was rushed to hospital and was later transfered to a nursing home, where he spent two years in a vegetative state before his family made the heartbreaking decision, based on medical advice, to withhold further treatment on June 12, 2012.

A victim impact statement on behalf of Mr Smyth’s mother revealed the toll her son’s death has had on her, especially the decision to allow him to die and the physical effect caring for him had on her.

In the report, Mr Smyth’s mother said: “Lee was not an angel and he had a lot of his own problems, but he was my only son and I miss him so much. He didn’t deserve to be attacked and left in the way that he was.”