Two Portaferry men, already charged with attacking a man in the town, were back in court today charged with his murder.
Robert Kiernan, 28, from Portaferry but now with an address at Princetown Road in Bangor, and Jordan Donnelly, 19, from Arlington Park in the harbour town, were jointly charged at Newtownards Magistrates’ Court with the murder of Ryan Macrae on October 14.
Last Monday, they were originally charged with causing grievous bodily harm with intent to 32-year-old Mr Macrae but tragically, he succumbed to his injuries and passed away in hospital on Tuesday evening.
A labourer from Killyleagh, Mr Macrae was allegedly attacked in the Church Street area just before 1am on Sunday, October 14.
Last Monday, the court heard how he sustained serious injuries during the assault when he allegedly had his head smacked against a brick wall after being kicked and punched in the altercation which was captured on CCTV.
Despite police objections, Kiernan and Donnelly were freed on bail only to be rearrested following Mr Macrae’s death.
In court today a PSNI detective sergeant said police were objecting to bail amid fears that now they are facing a murder charge, Kiernan and Donnelly were a flight risk.
He claimed it was a “very strong police case, a very straightforward case” against the alleged killers, revealing that not only was the entire incident captured on “very clear CCTV” but that the defendants had “made admissions” during police interviews.
The officer told District Judge Mark Hamill the assault was “basically one blow to the head which made the injured party fall directly to the ground banging his head”.
“That was followed up by ... two stomps to the injured party’s head as he lay on the ground, followed up by the defendant grabbing him and banging his head on the ground.”
After the detective described the incident as a “fairly serious, vicious assault,” the judge warned: “People who stamp on people’s head while they’re on the ground definitely go to prison.”
He said as well as police fearing the pair might flee, “tensions in this area are quite high” so he was seeking a remand into custody “for their own personal security”.
Donnelly’s defence counsel, Chris Holmes, said while the police claim they have a strong case, “there are definitely issues” which will have to be tried eventually, including Mr Macrae “being the aggressor on two or three occasions”.
He submitted that in contrast to police fears that Donnelly would flee, he had “taken himself to the door of Musgrave Street [station]” when he heard of Mr Macrae’s death, “knowing that they would be looking for him”.
Conor Holmes, acting for married father-of-two Kiernan, made similar submissions, revealing that his client was “absolutely distraught at this man’s passing”.
“This is not a clear cut case,” declared the lawyer.
Judge Hamill said he did not see any increased risk of flight and that apart from the fact “that this poor man is dead, the other fundamentals [of the case] are the same”.
Kiernan and Donnelly were released on continuing bail, and are due back in court on November 16.