A Co Armagh man was handed a life sentence on Friday after being found guilty of murder.
Despite his denials, a jury at Belfast Crown Court took just over two hours to find Mark Daniel Ward (25) guilty of beating Marcell ‘Junior’ Seeley to death in October 2015.
The remains of the 34-year old father of four were found in the living room of his Dingwell Park flat in the Taghnevan estate in Lurgan, with the cause of death determined as blunt force trauma to the head.
Ward, from Drumellan Gardens in the Moyraverty area of Craigavon, showed little emotion as the forewoman of the jury returned the guilty verdict, which was a majority of 11 to one.
However, as he was being led from the dock, he turned to the public gallery and verbally abused Mr Seeley’s family.
He called them ‘dirtbirds’ and said ‘happy now are you, f*****g tramps’ - which resulted in a verbal confrontation between the families of both Ward and Mr Seeley, and the subsequent intervention of security staff.
The confrontation came just moments after trial judge, Mr Justice Treacy, praised the behaviour of all those who have attended the six-week trial - saying everyone involved, particularly Mr Seeley’s family, had acted with “complete decorum.”
Mr Justice Treacy said: “The family of the deceased, and others, are to be commended for the way in which they have conducted themselves throughout what must have been an extremely difficult trial for them to listen to.”
Just a few moments after this, the public gallery erupted following Ward’s verbal abuse towards Mr Seeley’s family.
During the trial, the court heard from a neighbour of Mr Seeley’s, who saw Ward in the Dingwell Park area on the morning of Sunday, October 11.
Gerry Byrne gave evidence last month, and said that when he spoke to Ward, he noticed blood on his hand. Mr Byrne said Ward told him he had hit Junior, and also spoke about blood coming from an ear.
Mr Seeley - described in court as an alcoholic - sustained multiple injuries in the attack including fatal head injuries which produced both swelling and bleeding to the brain. He also sustained two fractured ribs, a fracture to a bone just above his voicebox and a shoulder injury.
Other evidence which the Crown said proved Ward’s guilt was a distinctive shoe pattern left at the murder scene. The shoe print came from a pair of size nine Base London shoes.
Footprints were located on an envelope beside Mr Seeley’s body, on a belt, on several areas on the floor, and there was also a footprint on the victim’s shirt that correlated with bruising to his underlying muscle, which a pathologist concluded was caused “by a severe degree of force ... such as a stamp”.
It was the crown’s case that Ward - who wears a size nine shoe - was seen in a police station for an unrelated matter the week of the murder wearing a pair of Base London shoes, which have never been recovered.
Ward chose not to give evidence at his trial, however the jury heard that his version of events placed him at the scene on the night in question, but he denied killing Mr Seeley.
Ward claimed that on the evening of Saturday 10th/Sunday 11th October, neighbour Gerry Byrne and his girlfriend had been in Mr Seeley’s flat, and that he went into the flat after hearing shouting and noise.
It was Ward’s case that in the flat there was “arguing, pushing and shoving”, that everyone was drinking, that Ward pushed Mr Byrne and Mr Seeley apart which caused Mr Byrne to fall on the sofa and that Mr Seeley hit him so he hit him back.
Ward also claimed that he offered to kick out Mr Byrne and his partner for Mr Seeley, then he left the flat.
This version of events was rejected by the jury, who found Ward guilty of murder.
Following the verdict, Mr Justice Treacy told Ward that after being found guilty of murder there was only one sentence he could impose - that of a life sentence. He said the tariff hearing, to determine how long Ward will spend in jail before he is considered eligible for release, will be held in August.