Jason McGovern killing: Eyewitness mistaken, says accused

Jason McGovern died after a night out in Omagh on New Year's Eve 2012
Jason McGovern died after a night out in Omagh on New Year's Eve 2012

Tearful 23-year-old Co Tyrone man Mark Donnelly has maintained he was innocent of the unlawful killing of Co Monaghan teenager Jason McGovern.

Donnelly, who gave his address as Greencastle, between Omagh and Cookstown, refuted any suggestion that he threw the killer punch which floored the 19-year-old in an Omagh car park in the early hours of New Year’s Eve 2012.

Asked by his defence QC Sean Doran about the evidence of the alleged eyewitness who claimed to have seen him punch Jason at the entrance of the Weigh Inn car park, Donnelly, who denied even knowing her, declared: “I say that she is mistaken.”

He went on to add: “I didn’t strike anyone down at the Weigh Inn car park.”

Later, under cross-examination by prosecution QC Liam McCollum, Donnelly denied being a man who would “lie to save your own skin”.

He also rejected the proposition that he was only prepared to admit matters when confronted with the reality of them captured on CCTV.

Donnelly spent two hours in the witness box at Dungannon Crown Court on the seventh day of his trial for the manslaughter of Mr McGovern from Tydavnet, Co Monaghan.

Mr McGovern suffered a fractured skull and was found dead at a friend’s house following a night out in Omagh.

Outlining the events of that night, Donnelly claimed that he only went to see what was going on “probably more of nosiness than anything”, after his girlfriend had pointed out a disturbance outside the Terrace Bar in Omagh’s John Street.

Donnelly agreed that following this “a melee broke out” for which he was later convicted of affray, although he had pleaded not guilty at the time.

He also told the court of going to the Kevlin Avenue car park looking for his cousin to give her a lift home along with his girlfriend.

He maintained that he never saw the teenager at the car park, nor of any attack on him.

However, he said that he saw a friend apparently having “an argument” with someone, but that was all.

Later Donnelly was quizzed about his “leaving” things out of his police interviews, and accepted that he had “no explanation” for that, but maintained he was only saying what he could remember of events that night.

He denied that he was “trying to distance” himself from events, and added later: “As I say I gave a statement of what I recall. I wasn’t trying to distance myself from it.”

He also accepted that after a friend of Mr McGovern had been the victim of one unprovoked attack, he was captured on CCTV following a group of others going after the Monaghan teenagers.

Donnelly agreed that security footage also showed him running back up the street, after Mr McGovern must have been attacked.

Mr McCollum suggested that Donnelly was seen on CCTV images ... “after cowardly hitting someone” running away, and put it to the Tyrone man: “That’s your style Mr Donnelly”.

“No. That’s not true,” he replied.

When shown further security camera footage, following the car park attack, Donnelly claimed he had not mentioned it because he had not recalled it.

The footage showed a smiling Donnelly joining a group of other laughing and joking young men, one of whom demonstrated throwing a punch to Donnelly and the others.

On Thursday lawyers will begin their final submissions in the case, before Her Honour Judge McReynolds outlines the law in the case and reviews the evidence for the jury of seven men and five women.