Two men who were due to stand trial on charges arising from the death of Catholic community worker Kevin McDaid were yesterday re-arraigned on a number of offences.
Yesterday’s pleas brings to nine the number of men who have now admitted to various offences that occurred in the Heights area of Coleraine following a Rangers versus Celtic football match five years ago. None of the nine defendants will now stand trial on the two most serious charges they initially faced – namely the manslaughter of Mr McDaid and the attempted murder of his friend Damien Fleming.
Mr McDaid collapsed and died after a group of loyalists launched a violent attack near his home in May 2009.
John Thompson, 34, from Knocknougher Road in Macosquin, and 49-year old Paul Newman, from Nursery Avenue in Ballymoney, initially faced a string of charges, including manslaughter and attempted murder.
Legal teams for both men asked that the pair be re-arraigned on several lesser charges. Both Thompson and Newman pleaded guilty as a secondary party to causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Mr Fleming on May 24, 2009, and they also admitted assaulting Mr McDaid causing him actual bodily harm on the same date. The pair also pleaded guilty to affray, while Thompson admitted damaging the window of a police vehicle.
A Crown prosecutor said that the pleas in respect of the attack on Mr Fleming were made by both men on the grounds that they were part of a joint enterprise, but there was no specific act of violence by them against Mr Fleming. The prosecutor said the Crown was accepting the pleas, and asked that the remaining charges against the men – including manslaughter and attempted murder – be left on the books. After pre-sentence reports on the two men were ordered, Mr Justice Weatherup granted them continued bail and said: “The defendants Thompson and Newman may leave the dock.”
Last week, seven co-accused were re-arraigned on a series of charges, and after their pleas were accepted and pre-sentence reports ordered, all seven were released on continuing bail.
Three men now face a trial at Belfast Crown Court on charges including manslaughter and attempted murder. John McGrath, 55, from Knock Road in Ballymoney, 52-year old David Cochrane, from Windyhall Park in Coleraine, and 39-year old Philip Kane, from Danes Hill Road in Coleraine, deny the charges against them. The trial is due to start later this week.