Co Tyrone man cleared of meat cleaver murder threats

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A Co Tyrone man has been acquitted of arming himself with a meat cleaver and hammer and threatening to kill a man and his partner.

It took an Omagh Crown Court jury just over an hour and a half to clear Geoffrey Paul Doherty, from Meadow Close in Newtownstewart, of all five charges he faced.

The 36-year-old had always denied issuing the death threats to the couple at their Ballycolman estate home in Strabane on September 1, 2014, and possessing two offensive weapons and common assault.

By their verdicts the jury accepted Doherty’s claims that he would not have needed to arm himself as he had enough “Dutch courage” in him.

The jury also heard that despite being arrested a short time later, Doherty was unarmed and nothing was uncovered in a subsequent follow-up search.

It was the Crown’s case that following an initial altercation between the two men – which the prosecution say was started by Doherty who came “swinging” at the other man as he walked home from the town centre – Doherty then went to the man’s house and issued threats while brandishing the meat cleaver and claw hammer.

However, during his three-day trial, while Doherty admitted there had been an altercation between him and the man that morning, he denied starting the fight, claiming he’d met the man, whom he alleged was a drug dealer, by arrangement.

He also admitted that he spent the rest of the day brooding over having come off the worst during the initial confrontation, and some six hours later, a drunken Doherty went to the man’s home.

“I was a bit sore, injured. I was angry. My pride was hurt a wee bit,” Doherty told the court, but also accepted that going to the man’s house was “the worst decision I made that day ... going back up the estate and leaving myself open to all these lies”.

With injuries to the side of his head, as well as a “busted mouth” after the first meeting, Doherty said that alcohol clouded his judgment and that: “If I hadn’t been drinking I would have been nowhere near the Ballycolman estate.”

“I had the drink in me, I had Dutch courage, I didn’t need no weapons ... I didn’t take any weapons up there, definitely not.”

Doherty, who also maintained he made no death threats, said he had gone to the man’s house to offer him a “fair dig”, but left when he saw a child in the house.