Co Down window cleaner admits murder as trial about to begin

Richard Dalzell at a previous hearing
Richard Dalzell at a previous hearing

A Co Down window cleaner has pleaded guilty to murdering a man in north Antrim 17 months ago.

Richard Hugh Jackie Dalzell, 37, of Whinpark, Newtownards, was due to go on trial on Thursday at Belfast Crown Court accused of murdering Mark Anthony Lamont in Coleraine, on October 11, 2016. He had previously denied the charge.

Defence counsel Martin O’Rourke QC told the court that he had an application to have Dalzell rearraigned on the murder charge.

When the charge was put to Dalzell, he replied from the dock: “Guilty.’’

Prosecution counsel Ciaran Murphy QC said that he was applying for the second charge of intimidating a witness to be “left on the books’’.

Mr Justice Colton said that he was directing that count two be “left on the books and not to be proceeded with without the leave of this court or the Court of Appeal’’.

The judge told the defendant: “Mr Dalzell, you have pleaded guilty to murder and I must impose upon you the sentence of life imprisonment. That is a mandatory sentence.’’

The tariff for how long Dalzell will spend in prison without parole will be set at a hearing on Friday, April 13.

The prosecution said that ahead of the tariff hearing, a summary of the facts of the case along with a number of victim impact statements would be submitted to the court.

Dalzell was remanded back into custody to Maghaberry prison.

Relatives of his victim, who had packed into the public gallery for the hearing, openly wept as they left court.

No details were given in court about the circumstances surrounding the murder.

But at a previous bail hearing, prosecution lawyer Michael Chambers said the defendant and a female friend were in the Forge Bar in Coleraine on the evening of September 25, 2016 where Mark Lamont and two male friends were also present.

Mr Chambers said there was a “bad atmosphere in the bar” that evening.

He added: “All parties had consumed significant quantities of alcohol and the defendant took up a challenge to do a press-up competition with Mr Lamont.’’

The court heard that this resulted in a number of people “advising the defendant and his female companion that perhaps it would defuse the situation if they left the Forge Bar”.

The couple left the bar and returned to a nearby house in Coleraine and “began to have sex on the kitchen table of her house”.

The court heard that Mark Lamont and his two male friends turned up at the house with “hoods up over their heads and their faces obscured and there was a stand-off between them and the defendant’’.

“They were told to leave by the defendant’s female friend, and the three left the house and went outside.”

But Mr Lamont later returned to the house and “became involved in a confrontation with Mr Dalzell”.

A number of neighbours witnessed the confrontation and saw Mr Lamont “on the ground and the defendant repeatedly jumping up and down on the deceased’s head”.

Mr Lamont was taken to hospital but died on October 11, 2016 from his injuries.

At police interview, Dalzell told detectives that “this was a fight he was challenged to and he won’’.