Two brothers from Belfast have been found guilty of attempting to murder a man outside his Markets home over four years ago.
Hugh ‘Applegoat’ McCormick, 50, from Rosevale Street and his 46-year-old brother James ‘Dim’ McCormick, from Teeling Avenue in Dunmurry, were found unanimously guilty of attempting to murder Joseph Henry on July 2, 2011.
Mr Henry was hit over the head with a crowbar and stabbed in the neck, and as a result of the attack he lost two litres of blood, required a blood transfusion and remained in hospital for 25 days.
Despite claims from the McCormick brothers that they were not involved in the attack, the jury deliberated for over five-and-a-half hours before the foreman returned the guilty verdicts.
The brothers are due to be sentenced next month, and despite a request from their legal teams that they be released on continuing bail, they were both remanded in custody by Mr Justice Colton, who said they had been found guilty of a very serious offence.
During the week-long trial at Belfast Crown Court, Mr Henry – whose sister has four children with James McCormick – said he was attacked by the brothers outside his Eliza Street Terrace home in the Markets district of south Belfast on the morning of July 2, 2011.
He told the jury he went out for a cigarette at around 8am, when he heard a voice from behind asking the whereabouts of his nephew.
Mr Henry said: “I turned round to see who the voice was, and it was Hugh ‘Applegoat’ McCormick. I knew him all my life as he has lived in the same area as me.”
Mr Henry said Applegoat was wearing a zipped-up red Berghaus jacket and a bar was “protruding from the top of it”. He then said Applegoat took the crowbar out of his jacket and “hit me on the top right-hand side of my head and to my back.
“I stumbled back and held on to the drainpipe. I knew if I had gone to ground I would have been finished.”
Mr Henry said he then saw Jim ‘Dim’ McCormick coming out of his front door.
When asked by Crown prosecutor Kate McKay how he knew Dim, Mr Henry said that he had gone to secondary school with him and had once been married to his sister.
Mr Henry told the jury: “Dim was wearing a blue Berghaus jacket with grey stripes on the side, bleached jeans and white trainers.
“He had his right hand in his pocket the whole time. Then he pulled out a long steel butcher’s knife, about 12 inches long, in his right hand.
“He never said a word to me. Then he stuck the knife in my neck and ripped it up the side. I heard my skin actually splitting open.
“He then retrieved the knife from my neck and I heard Applegoat say ‘That’s enough. Come on’. They went in through the front door of my house and then out the back door.”
Mr Henry said that following the attack, he went back into the house and told his elderly mother: “I have been stabbed. Phone an ambulance.” He added: “I had my hand over my throat so she couldn’t see my wounds.”
Several of Mr Henry’s relatives, including his mother and several sisters, gave evidence and said they thought he was going to die.
Following a police investigation, Hugh McCormick was arrested on July 10, 2011 while James McCormick was interviewed the following month, on August 21. During police interviews, Hugh either didn’t respond to or answered ‘no comment’ to all the questions put to him, while James didn’t answer any questions.
The brothers both denied any involvement in the attack, and during the trial legal teams for both men spoke of a series of inconsistencies given by the Henry family in the aftermath of the attack – including one which appeared in a local newspaper.
Another issue the defence teams raised with the jury was an eyewitness account given by a man who was walking past the area, who saw the assault and who gave assistance to Mr Henry at the scene.
This independent eyewitness account included descriptions of both men, one of whom he said was around six feet tall. This, the defence legal teams pointed out, didn’t match the height of either James or Hugh McCormick.
The jury were, however, reminded that Mr Henry was in the best position to identify the men who attacked him, and these were two men he had known all his life.
After the jury found both men guilty of attempted murder, a request for continuing bail was made on the grounds that the brothers had been on bail for several years.
This request was refused by prosecuting barrister Kate McKay, who told Mr Justice Colton: “These are very serious matters for which they have now been convicted, and both of them have considerable criminal records. The prosecution would ask for a remand in custody.”
Agreeing that the offence was “serious”, Mr Justice Colton remanded both men and told them they would be sentenced on November 4.
In the meantime, pre-sentence reports will be prepared for the McCormicks, while a Victim Impact Report will also be compiled.