Belfast Telegraph

Attack witness 'too ill for court'

A key witness at the inquest of a man who died after being attacked at a Belfast taxi rank could be too ill to give evidence, a court has been told.

Joseph O'Neill, 60, from Brooke Park in west Belfast, died hours after an altercation while waiting for a taxi near the city centre in October 2011.

The barman, who was originally from Scotland but had lived with his wife in the Andersonstown area for over 20 years, suffered a fractured skull and died at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

A preliminary hearing at Mays Chambers in Belfast heard that James Curran, one of two brothers required to give evidence, has suffered mental ill-health and could be too fragile to take the stand.

His solicitor Joe McVeigh said he had been prescribed anti-depressant medication and was referred for counselling.

"The background to this has had a fairly profound effect on him," said the solicitor.

A letter from Mr Curran's GP was also submitted to the court.

Coroner Jim Kitson said: "The medical report states that were (Mr Curran) compelled to court it could have a deletirious effect on his mental health and could lead to extreme consequences."

The Coroner has demanded a final psychiatric report be produced and that the witness make himself amenable for a full assessment before any decision is taken on whether or not to summon him to court.

He said Mr Curran could help provide clarity on CCTV footage of the alleged attack which would be shown to the court.

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