A man has appeared in court charged with murder following a “brutal, sectarian” attack which left a victim in a vegetative state for nine years.
Piper John McClements, 24, from the Fountain Estate in Londonderry, was granted bail at Londonderry Magistrates’ Court.
Paul McCauley, a 38-year-old Catholic, spent almost a decade in care after he was attacked by loyalists at a barbecue in the Waterside area of Londonderry in July 2006.
He died in a home last month.
District Judge John Meehan said: “This is a matter of acute public concern, one of the most brutal, sectarian attacks in a long catalogue.”
The accused, who was arrested in Londonderry’s Fountain estate on Thursday, was formerly known as Daryl Proctor.
He appeared in the dock wearing a hoodie, handcuffed and flanked by a police officer. Members of his family were in the public gallery.
Police stepped up the investigation into the attack in the wake of Mr McCauley’s death.
The father-of-one was 29 when he attended the barbecue at Chapel Road for a friend who was moving away from Northern Ireland.
A gang of up to 15 people emerged from nearby bushes and attacked him and two of his friends as they were clearing up after the meal in the early hours of the morning. He sustained severe head injuries.
Mr McCauley’s family has pursued a long campaign for justice.
The judge said: “There are, disturbingly and to this day, many others who were involved in the brutal circumstances leading to the death of the unfortunate victim.”
A detective constable from the PSNI opposed bail on the grounds that his release may stop witnesses coming forward with vital information and evidence to assist the murder investigation. She also raised concern about the defendant’s personal safety.
A lawyer for the accused, Don Mahoney, said police had not informed his client of any specific threat.
He said it was the police’s position that it was a direct consequence of the injuries sustained that Mr McCauley had died.
“What it would appear now to be much more a case of in relation to him is more of a medical question and whether or not the injuries that were sustained back in 2006 were in fact the cause of death.”
The detective said McClements made no comment during two days of interviews.
She said Mr McCauley suffered a serious head injury in July 2006, never regained consciousness, and subsequently died on June 6 this year. The defendant is accused of murder on June 6, the court was told.
He was released on bail of £500 and a surety of £600 and was ordered to reside at his Fountain home, not to drink alcohol in pubs and to observe a night time curfew. He was granted permission to travel through the Waterside area of the city only for certain purposes including for work but was to inform police of his route.
The defendant is due to reappear at Londonderry Magistrates’ Court on August 13.