A Co Derry man who “unleashed a mob” on a visiting Scotsman who was mercilessly kicked and beaten before being run over and killed was jailed for seven years yesterday.
Jailed along with 45-year-old Maghera man John Richard Stewart for four years for the manslaughter of 36-year-old Scotsman Ronald Mackie was Paul Johnston (23), from Castledawson.
Two other Maghera men, 33-year-old Thomas Colgan and Dean Milligan (21), who admitted fighting with Mr Mackie outside Tobermore United Football Club on July 29, 2006, were freed when their two-year jail terms were suspended for three years.
Belfast Crown Court heard that the whole horrific, brutal and tragic incident possibly started over a spilt drink at the end of a disco held after a loyalist flute band parade in Maghera.
Sentencing the men, Mr Justice Weir said Mr Mackie had been on a family visit which ended in his violent death when he was run over by a car after being attacked while he was “defenceless, alone and hopelessly outnumbered”.
Outside court, his mother, Jean Struthers, described Ronald as an uncle, a friend, and a brother, and said that all she wanted to do now was to return home and try to get on with her life.
Earlier she had listened as a gum-chewing unremorseful Stewart of King William III Crescent, Maghera, was described as the self-confessed “instigator” of the attack on her son.
Mr Justice Weir said but for Stewart's “terrible influence” that night Mr Mackie may still be alive today.
“You are the person responsible,” the judge told Stewart, “for unleashing this mob and then watching what they did.”
Mr Justice Weir said “whatever power” Stewart had over the gang of eight to 10 men who carried out the attack, he made “no effort” to use it to stop it or to flag down the approaching car. “Your behaviour,” he told Stewart, “was cowardly, despicable, merciless and its consequences fatal”.
Turning to Johnston, from Park View in Castledawson, Mr Justice Weir said his involvement may have stemmed from a mistaken belief that a bottle which struck him had come from Mr Mackie.
The judge said that a “remorseful and shamed” Johnston joined in the attack, but struck Mr Mackie only once and before he was on the road. However, said Mr Justice Weir, Johnston had then “stood looking on while others attacked him” and did nothing to stop the assault, or the oncoming car, or to help pull him to safety.
Milligan, from Crew Road, Maghera, who was only aged 18 at the time and had intellectual limitations had “followed” the gang to see what was happening.
However, Mr Justice Weir said he had “struck him two blows” although afterwards Milligan was found crying.
Of the four men, said the judge, only one, Colgan, Stewart's nephew, also from King William III Crescent, Maghera, tried to flag down the car which ran over Mr Mackie. The unknown attackers who'd “mercilessly kicked” the Scotsman as he lay on the roadway, were not before the court for sentence, and were described by Mr Justice Weir as “cowardly thugs”.