East Belfast man ‘dunked partner’s head in bath’

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A 20-year-old east Belfast man accused of attacking his partner after she refused to have sex with him has been refused High Court bail.

After hearing details about the alleged attack – which included the woman having her head dunked in a bath half filled with water at least four times – Mr Justice Treacy refused to release Paul James Knell on bail on the grounds that he presented a risk to her.

Knell, from Inverleith Drive in the Sydenham area of the city, was arrested on July 2 following an allegation that he assaulted his partner in Dundonald on June 28. Knell denies assaulting and trying to choke the mother of his child, instead claiming that she started a row and attacked him.

A Crown prosecutor said police received a report of an alleged domestic incident during which the injured party claimed she was attacked by Knell after “he asked her for sex and she refused”.

The prosecutor said the woman claimed that following this refusal, Knell launched an attack.

This attack, the High Court heard, including her being kicked in the leg and grabbed by the neck from behind. Knell is also accused of forcing her head into a bath half filled with water at least four times.

The prosecutor said the woman “couldn’t breathe” and “struggled to take a breath” but was able to get to her feet which caused Knell to lose a grip on her. Knell is alleged to have then left the flat with their one-year old son.

It was also claimed that the woman later received a message on Whatsapp from Knell which said: “I wish I had done it properly. Go to the police if you want.”

The prosecuting barrister added that the woman was now “frightened for her life and wants nothing to do with him”.

When arrested, Knell made a largely ‘no comment’ response when questions were put to him during the police interview.

Revealing that this alleged attack was committed while Knell was under a suspended sentence for a previous assault on the same woman, the prosecutor said bail was being objected to on a number of grounds, including a belief that Knell will reoffend and will interfere with his partner.

Barrister Denis Boyd, representing Knell, said his client’s version of events differed. Knell, the barrister said, claimed that she had been out drinking and when she returned to the flat, he then went out for a few drinks.

Knell claimed that his partner continued drinking and when he got back to the flat, “she started a row and attacked him and as a result he took the son round to his mum’s”.

Telling the court that his client denied the bath incident and sending the Whatsapp message, Mr Boyd said Knell was arrested four days after the incident after attending Strandtown PSNI station.

Seeking bail for Knell, Mr Boyd said his client would agree to any conditions that the court imposed.

After listening to submissions from both the Crown and defence, Mr Justice Treacy said it was his view that Knell posed a risk to the woman, adding “she is justifiably frightened of this individual”.

The judge also spoke of a risk of further offending and interferring with the woman as further reasons not to grant bail.