Murder accused extradited from Republic fails in bail bid

Police Forensics carry out fresh searches at the scene in Hazel View, Lagmore in 2015. 'Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Police Forensics carry out fresh searches at the scene in Hazel View, Lagmore in 2015. 'Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

A man was remanded in custody on Wednesday after being extradited over the killing of a mother-of-three in west Belfast.

Raymond O’Neill, 40, is facing charges of murder and arson endangering life in connection with Jennifer Dornan’s death in August 2015.

Ms Dornan, 30, was found stabbed inside her burning home at Hazel View in the Lagmore area of the city.

O’Neill, with a previous address at Amcomri Street in Belfast, is also to be separately charged with the rape of another woman back in 2003.

He was detained in the Irish Republic under European Arrest Warrants in 2016.

Despite a series of legal challenges, an order was made for his extradition to Northern Ireland.

As O’Neill appeared before Belfast Magistrates’ Court in a wheelchair due to medical issues, prosecutors confirmed the charges of murder, arson and rape against him.

A preliminary enquiry hearing has been listed for next month, a judge was told.

Defence solicitor Paul Farrell acknowledged it was “an emotive case”.

He said: “It was a traumatic event and the allegations against him (O’Neill) are very serious.”

But seeking bail, the lawyer claimed the accused is not forensically connected to the murder.

Instead, he contended, only clothing and hairstyle evidence links O’Neill to having allegedly entered Ms Dornan’s home.

Mr Farrell, of McIvor Farrell Solicitors, also raised concerns over the separate allegations of rape now being made against O’Neill.

The court heard an initial decision was taken not to prosecute in 2005, before a review more than a decade later.

“It appears to my eye there was no additional evidence,” the solicitor said.

He set out how extradition was fought due to potential issues over the validity of the warrants following Brexit.

But refusing bail District Judge Paul Copeland cited the potential for flight.

He added: “I’m also satisfied from what has been asserted on the complaints to inform the warrants, and what has been articulated in court, that there’s more than adequate evidence here to justify the charges at this particular juncture.”

Remanding O’Neill in custody, Mr Copeland said: “I direct his production for preliminary enquiry on December 4 here at Laganside Courts in Belfast.”