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Defendant ‘never laid a hand’ on Thomas: QC

The Crown case against a man accused of involvement in the Thomas Devlin murder is nothing more than a “jigsaw puzzle cut up with scissors”, a lawyer has said.

Making his closing speech to the Belfast Crown Court jury, Arthur Harvey QC argued that the prosecution were inviting them to accept their theory that Nigel Brown (26) was intent on murder but to ignore evidence which proved the contrary.

“What is a fact is that Thomas Devlin never had a hand laid on him by the defendant Nigel Brown — not a hand,” said the lawyer.

Brown, from the Whitewell Road, is jointly charged alongside Gary Ryan Taylor (23), from Mountcollyer Avenue, both north Belfast, with murdering the schoolboy (15), attempting to murder his friend Jonathan McKee and attempting to wound him with intent on August 10 2005.

Brown has already pleaded guilty to attempting to cause grievous bodily harm to Mr McKee with intent to do so.

It is the Crown case that the pair attacked Thomas, Jonathan and another friend Fintan Maguire just before midnight on the Somerton Road in the north of the city and that Taylor had a knife while Brown had a bat.

Yesterday, Mr Harvey argued that Brown did not know that alleged accomplice Taylor had a knife with him that night when the pair left Ross House tower block in the Mount Vernon estate, where they both lived at the time, just before 11.30pm.

He said while the Crown contended that he “must have known” he was armed with a blade, he urged the jury to look at hearsay evidence of former police officer Norman Crozier, whose brother David was Brown's stepfather.

During the course of the last five weeks since the trial began, the jury heard that Brown confessed to his stepfather that he had been on the Somerton Road, allegedly with Taylor, when he saw him “lash out” at one of the boys.

Mr Harvey told the jury this “unburdening” of his soul came just four weeks after the murder when Brown was not even suspected of involvement.

“He is home and clear, a clean bill of health, nobody knows he is involved and what's the account that he gives (to his stepfather), that he went to the Somerton Road, he went there with Gary Taylor, that he himself punched and kicked one of the young men there... that he saw Gary Taylor lashing out with a knife and when he saw that, he ran off and he also said that the young boy was on the ground,” said the lawyer.

He reminded the jury how Mr McKee told them he was hit on the back of the head with a piece of wood and suffered a number of further blows but that the attack “suddenly stopped” and when he looked up his attacker “the smaller of the two” was running off.

Mr Harvey asked the jury to consider those two accounts in light of Mr McKee's injuries.

The trial continues.

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