A Crown Court jury trying four brothers accused of double murder was sent home yesterday.
The six women and six men hearing the trial in Armagh retired at noon after judge Mr Justice Weatherup gave them instructions in how to apply the law to the facts.
The judge told the jury that depending on their assessment of the three weeks of evidence, they could convict the brothers of murder, manslaughter or attempted murder.
It is the Crown case that the four Smith brothers, Martin, 40, from Kevlin Glen, near Omagh, 38-year-old Niall, Christopher, 33, and Stephen, 31, all from the Mourneview estate in Clady, launched their murderous attack in revenge for the sexual abuse Thomas O’Hare perpetrated on Stephen Smith in the late 80s and early 90s.
All four deny the couple’s murders and arson in November 2006, claiming they only ever intended to burn the house down, not to kill or maim their victims.
Seven years ago last month, 33-year-old Mr O’Hare and his girlfriend Lisa McClatchey, 21, were attacked and horrifically burned after the masked brothers burst into Mr O’Hare’s home on the Foley Road near the village of Tassagh, attacked him and then poured petrol all over the house. Within days of the attack, the couple succumbed to multiple organ failure, brought about by burns to 80 per cent of their bodies.
Yesterday, with the courtroom packed to the rafters with relatives and friends of the defendants and their victims, and extra uniformed police officers drafted in, Mr Justice Weatherup told the jury that to convict the brothers of murder, they must be satisfied that they intended to kill Thomas O’Hare and that one of them deliberately ignited the petrol, describing that murder had two ingredients, “the guilty mind and the guilty act”.
He told the jury if they believed instead that, as they claimed, the brothers intended to burn the house down rather than kill and that the spreading of the petrol was “unlawful and dangerous” but not deliberately lit, then it was open to them to convict of manslaughter.
The judge also said if they were satisfied there was an intention to kill but that the petrol exploded prematurely and accidentally, then a verdict of guilt of attempted murder was open to them as well.
After three hours of deliberations, the judge sent the jury home for the day and asked them to return today to continue their deliberations.
The trial continues.