A Fermanagh man who unwittingly left his brother to die after a drunken row during which he had threatened to rape his pregnant girlfriend, was yesterday jailed for two-and-a-half years.
Mr Justice Weir told Raymond Johnston it was accepted he had not intended to kill his 33-year-old older brother David in July 2012.
The Omagh Crown Court judge, sitting in Belfast, said it was also believed his claims of amnesia about actually stabbing him were genuine.
Johnston, from Kinawley Road, in the Florencecourt area of Fermanagh, had been originally accused of murdering his brother in the early hours of July 13, 2012, but the prosecution finally accepted his guilty plea to his manslaughter.
Mr Justice Weir said that drink lay behind the tragedy. Both brothers, he said, had spent the day, separately, drinking heavily, before joining up later and continuing to drink and then deciding to party on at Johnston’s home.
“Had you known when to have stopped drinking,” the judge told Johnston, “this terrible event would have been avoided.”
While they drove to Johnston’s home there was no animosity between them, but once in the house another row erupted and a fight ensued.
An earlier court was told that Johnston’s brother had threatened to rape his pregnant girlfriend, and had also told him that he would “gut him like a fish”.
Mr Weir said that, armed with a knife, Johnston pursued his brother outside and there was a further struggle. However, what happened was not witnessed, and a short time later, a half-naked and blood-stained Johnston returned to wash up.
The judge said Johnston referred to the fight “as a wee row” and it was clear from what he said, he expected his brother to come back into the house.
However, said Mr Justice Weir, “he did not come back in. He collapsed outside in the laneway.”
As he stumbled and staggered about bleeding to death, David Johnston managed to make a final mobile call to his mother and sister, telling them: “I’m dying here, I’m losing blood.”
Mr Johnston was later found to have six knife wounds, and the judge said the evidence suggested they were caused while those fighting were under the influence of alcohol and while holding a knife, but it did not suggest a deliberate attack to cause serious injury.