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Bail for man charged over attack which left footballer Grace fighting for life

By Staff Reporter

Published 16/09/2016

Niall Grace
Niall Grace

A man charged with the one-punch attack in Londonderry that left a footballer fighting for his life has been granted bail.

Institute FC midfielder Niall Grace (24) is in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast after he was struck in the early hours of Sunday.

The Irish League footballer suffered serious head trauma which required him to be placed in a medically induced coma and undergo surgery to relieve swelling and a clot on the brain.

Matthew McDermott (20) of Cornshell Fields, Derry yesterday successfully applied for bail at Belfast High Court.

He appeared by video-link from Hydebank Young Offenders Centre and wept throughout the hearing.

Objecting to bail, prosecution counsel said the incident was reported to police by CCTV operators in Derry city at 11.55pm on September 11.

It is alleged McDermott struck Mr Grace on the jaw causing him to fall to the ground and strike his head, knocking him unconscious.

When police arrived at the scene the victim had come round but was vomiting and bleeding from his nose. A cut was noted at the back of his head.

Mr Grace was taken to Altnagelvin Hospital but his condition deteriorated causing him to lapse back into unconsciousness. He was transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast and placed in a medically-induced coma.

With his condition at this point described as critical, the victim underwent emergency surgery to relieve swelling to the brain and a blood clot.

McDermott was identified by door-staff in a nearby bar who explained he and his brother had been ejected from the premises following an altercation with the victim earlier in the night.

Whilst the victim remained inside, McDermott was seen gesturing and goading him to come out, which he later did. A witness claimed to have heard the victim say "What the f***? I'm going to kill you, I'm going to f****** kill you." To this McDermott replied: "You're too yellow. You don't have the b****. I was thrown out because of you."

At this point both men threw punches at each other. The victim missed, but McDermott's connected.

During interview McDermott was described as "distraught" on learning the extent of the incident. He said he was "drunk and stupid" and having been shown CCTV footage was "disgusted by his behaviour and didn't want to hurt anybody." It further emerged as well as being charged with inflicting grievous bodily harm, McDermott was found in possession of a number of tablets which he stated were Ecstasy. He claimed he intended to take them that night but didn't.

Police were opposed to bail on the grounds of witness interference and for McDermott's own safety, although it was accepted there is no evidence of any live threat of retaliation.

Defence counsel advised her client has never been in trouble before. She added whilst the blow was struck it did not cause the injuries for which Mr Grace, who is unknown to McDermott, is currently in hospital.

Mrs Justice Keegan decided bail could be granted with strict terms which she outlined in detail to McDermott.

McDermott was ordered to sign in three times per week with police, refrain from entering the cityside of Derry, and have no contact with the victim or any witnesses. He is further banned from consuming alcohol and must abide by a curfew from 10pm to 6am.

Bail was set at £500 with two sureties of £800 cash each to be put forward by a brother and sister of the defendant. The case is due for mention at Derry Magistrates Court next month.

Belfast Telegraph

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