Man denies murder but ‘accepts responsibility’ for friend’s death

Titania Street, off the Cregagh Road in East Belfast following the death of a 29-year-old man.''Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Titania Street, off the Cregagh Road in East Belfast following the death of a 29-year-old man.''Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

An east Belfast man “accepts full responsibility’’ for the death of his friend in a house, a court heard on Friday.

The statement was made by a senior defence barrister for Kenneth Cowan who appeared at Belfast Crown Court.

Cowan (29), of Titania Street in the Cregagh estate, has been charged with the murder of friend Brian Anthony Burke at a house in the area on April 8 this year.

Before Cowan’s arraignment hearing for the murder of Mr Burke got underway, Gavan Duffy QC told Mr Justice Colton that he was aware that members of the deceased’s family were in court and wanted to say a few words.

“The position is firstly that the defendant in this case accepts full responsibility for causing the death of the deceased Mr Burke..’’

He added that questions had arisen about Cowan’s “mental state’’ at the time of the man’s death five months ago.

Mr Duffy said that the defendant would be pleading not guilty to murder and on the basis of his mental the defence would be looking at a case of manslaughter by way of diminished responsibilty.

Cowan answered “not guilty’’ when the murder charge was put to him by the clerk of the court.

The defence QC said a consultant forensic psychologist had already been engaged who had compiled a report on the issue of diminished responsibility but he was now seeking an “addendum’’ to her report over a number of matters she had raised.

He told Mr Justice Colton that once the addendum report was received, it would then be served on the prosecution who could then instruct their own forensic psychiatrist.

Mr Duffy said: “If there is a requirement for Mr Cowan to present himself for examination by a consultant psychiatrist instructed by the Crown he will consent to that.’’

A prosecution lawyer said that the Crown would want to see any reports compiled on behalf of the defendant.

“If the court might review this case in four weeks time when all the material has been served that which would assist in our investigations.’’

The court has heard that a “substantial number of witnesses in the case had already been agreed’’ which had moved the case forward for trial.

Mr Justice Colton directed the defence to serve on the prosecution within one week any medical material which they intended to rely on.

The trial date was set for January 7, 2019 and which expected to last week.

Mr Duffy said he was not making an application for bail and Cowan was remanded back into custody.