Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

Three men in court as victim fights for his life

A young Co Down man has had to undergo two brain operations for critical injuries he suffered while trying to save his brother during a vicious assault, a court has been told.

John Smith sustained severe head injuries after he was set upon by a gang of up to five people outside Maginn’s Bar in Castlewellan during the early hours of Sunday morning.

The 28-year-old Downpatrick man had been out with his 18-year-old brother Connor when they were both attacked.

He had tried to stop his brother from being assaulted but ended up being beaten so badly he had to be rushed to hospital with severe head injuries.

Since Sunday the 28-year-old has undergone two brain operations to reduce swelling at the Royal Victoria Hospital where his distraught family have kept a bedside vigil.

He remained in a critical condition last night.

Yesterday three men appeared at Downpatrick Courthouse charged with his attempted murder and grevious bodily harm. Aaron Campbell (18), from Ballynahinch, Owen Wright (20), from Poleglass, and Declan Murdoch (19), from Drumaness, are all accused of trying to kill Mr Smith during the vicious assault as well as brutally beating his brother.

The court heard a fourth man, Gerry Flynn, who was also arrested in relation to the assault, was released pending a report. It is believed all four young men may have gone to school with Connor Smith.

Yesterday a detective investigating the incident told Downpatrick Courthouse he could connect all four to the assault.

He also revealed that a fifth man who is believed to be involved in the attack has yet to be arrested.

During the hearing the detective told the courtroom the incident had been captured on CCTV and showed Wright, Morgan and Campbell attacking both John and Connor at different times outside the bar.

“In relation to Owen Wright, the CCTV shows Connor and John Smith outside Maginn’s and Owen Wright emerging from the bar and launching a vicious and unwarranted attack on Connor Smith,” the detective told the court.

“It shows him hitting him four times to the head. John Smith is then seen intervening. The next time you see John Smith he is struggling with Owen Wright.”

The detective then explained the rest of the footage showed all three of the accused attacking both brothers as well as two other men.

“It then develops into a fracas in which five to six people are falling on to a car bonnet punching both John and Connor Smith,” the detective said.

However the serious blow to Mr Smith was delivered by Wright, the detective added.

During the hearing the court was also told the incident may have resulted from an alleged assault which took place inside the bar between a young man, Conor Gelston, and John Smith.

It was alleged John Smith “put a glass” in the face of Mr Gelston.

The court also heard that the brother of Mr Gelston, Christopher, who had given a statement to police about what happened on the night, allegedly received a phone call from the family of Mr Campbell.

Solicitors acting on behalf of all three defendants argued that their clients should be granted bail given they had co-operated with police and had no prior records.

However, on hearing the evidence and in light of the attempted murder charge, District Judge Alan White refused the trio bail and remanded them into custody.

They are set to reappear in court via videolink on August 13.

Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz