A man jailed for killing a father as he walked home from his daughter’s 18th birthday party is to seek to go before the UK’s highest court in a bid to overturn his murder conviction.
Martin Murray is serving a minimum 18-year sentence for the fatal knife attack on Eamonn Hughes in Dungannon, Co Tyrone seven years ago.
Senior judges in Belfast yesterday refused leave to certify his case to go for appeal to the Supreme Court.
But Murray’s legal team confirmed they will now petition directly for a hearing in London, arguing it involves a point of law of general public importance.
Their challenge centres around claims he was denied a fair trial because the judge who sat without a jury had also been exposed to previous convictions at earlier bail hearings.
Murray, 28, and formerly of Windmill Drive, Dungannon, was among four men jailed for offences connected to the killing in September 2008.
Mr Hughes was stabbed in the chest in front of his family and friends as they made their way home following the birthday celebrations at a local club.
Kevin Toye, 28, was ordered to serve at least 10 years behind bars for attempting to murder two women by driving a hijacked taxi at them as they tended the dying stab victim.
Murray’s cousin, 28-year-old Liam Murray, received an indeterminate sentence of at least five years for causing an affray at the scene of the murder.
A fourth man, William McDonagh, 30, was also convicted of affray and given an extended custodial sentence of eight years, with an extra five years on licence.
Witnesses recalled seeing them all emerge from a taxi to confront the group on the town’s Lisnahull Road.
Martin Murray had admitted having a knife but claimed it was only used in self-defence.
In July this year the Court of Appeal dismissed Martin Murray’s challenge to the murder conviction after backing the trial judge’s verdict that he displayed aggression first.
Defence lawyers returned yesterday to seek authorisation to mount a fresh appeal at the Supreme Court.
Although leave was denied, Murray’s legal team are to press ahead with attempts to secure a hearing.
Solicior Ciaran Toner, of Finucane Toner law firm, said: “We are going to directly petition the Supreme Court because we strongly believe there is a point of public importance.
“The central point of the appeal is not that the trial judge was biased, it is that because of a failing in the system it could give an appearance of bias.”