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Drinkers left pal to freeze to death on mountain road

Two men have been jailed for the manslaughter of a drinking companion who they dumped from a car in sub-zero temperatures in one of Northern Ireland's most remote areas on the Glenshane Pass.

The body of 41-year-old Gregory Woods from Castledawson, who died from hypothermia, was found on a forest track by his brother after his family mounted a search for him.

Dean Porter (42), from Ballynahone Road, Maghera, was sentenced to three years at Londonderry Crown Court sitting in Belfast yesterday and 31-year-old Niall Regan, from Largantogher Park, Maghera, was jailed for 18 months and agreed to complete a similar term on probation after his release.

Mr Justice Hart said that Porter had threatened to kill Mr Woods on a number of occasions. One of the threats was made in front of police but the judge said it seemed they didn't take it seriously.

The three men had been drinking on February 3, 2008 and the accused later drove Mr Woods to the Glenshane Pass where they put him out of their car. Regan later rang police to tell him Mr Woods was missing.

The two defendants both pleaded guilty to manslaughter and the judge said they had been guilty of gross negligence by abandoning Mr Woods in a remote location when he was extremely drunk and not properly clothed to cope with the cold weather.

Mr Justice Hart said a post-mortem revealed no evidence of any serious assault on Mr Woods.

He said Porter's actions appeared to have been motivated by hostility and animosity towards Mr Woods.

The judge added that it appeared the reason for this was an allegation from a friend of Porter that he had been sexually assaulted by Woods, claims which the deceased's family have denied.

The court was told that Porter had a serious drink problem and that Regan was addicted to butane gas.

Mr Woods' death was the third tragedy to hit his family. His brother Michael died in a road accident seven years ago and his father Roland subsequently took his own life.

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