Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Witness attacks delaying murder probe, court told

Attacks have been carried out on potential witnesses to the murder of a Co Tyrone father-of-three, the High Court has heard.

Prosecutors alleged that ongoing intimidation was hampering police inquiries into the stabbing of Eamonn Hughes in Dungannon.

Mr Hughes (48) suffered a fatal knife wound to the heart as he and his family walked home from a daughter’s 18th birthday party.

Five men are alleged to have got out of a taxi and attacked the group last September.

According to the prosecution, some of the group seized control of the cab and drove it at two women giving first aid to the dying victim, inflicting serious injuries.

One of the suspects, Liam Murray (22) was refused bail yesterday amid concerns about possible witness interference.

Murray, of Windmill Court, Dungannon, faces charges of murder and hijacking a Toyota car. |Opposing the accused’s application for release, Crown counsel Conor Maguire alleged he was part of a joint enterprise.

The court heard the murder followed an earlier row at the Irish National Forester’s Club where the Hughes family were holding celebrations in a private room.

It was claimed that a son of the victim was verbally abused by others in the public bar, leading to a fight between rival groups outside the premises. Mr Maguire said the fatal attack was then launched as the family returned home along the Lisnahull Road.

Up to 20 people were involved, with witnesses claiming belts were used in an attempt to rebuff those who emerged from the car.

Despite Murray having spent seven months in custody, the prosecution stressed that the investigation was continuing.

With house-to-house inquiries carried out at 300 addresses, the court heard forensic tests have still to be completed.

Mr Maguire said: “Police have had substantial difficulty in getting statements from individuals they believe were witnesses at the scene because of the ongoing intimidation of people in the area.”

A defence barrister argued that Murray was an innocent party who had not requested the taxi to stop by the Hughes group.

And it was claimed that the accused had not part in the fatal attack or hijacking. But refusing bail, Mr Justice Deeny pointed to potential interference with witnesses.

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