Belfast Telegraph

Christopher Meli murder accused allegedly kicked him as he was put in recovery position, court hears

By Alan Erwin

One of the teenagers accused of murdering Christopher Meli in west Belfast allegedly kicked him as he was put in the recovery position, the High Court has heard.

Caolan Laverty had also urged others to get knives to go after the young father before he was beaten to death in December 2015, it was claimed.

Further details emerged as the 18-year-old was refused bail amid unsubstantiated assertions about his mental health.

Laverty, of Broom Park Heights in Dunmurry, is the youngest of three people charged with 20-year-old Mr Meli's murder.

Detectives believe up to 20 youths were involved in a number of violent confrontations that led to the victim suffering fatal head injuries at Doc's Lane in the Twinbrook estate.

One line of enquiry is that the murder victim and his friends were targeted in retaliation for a clash outside a kebab shop on the Stewartstown Road earlier the same night.

Mr Meli was said to have been located, knocked to the ground and then repeatedly punched and kicked about the head.

During initial interviews Laverty told police he punched him twice in self-defence to stop himself being attacked, the court heard.

The second strike was said to have been delivered with the aim of "putting him down" after the first blow had no effect.

However, Laverty then produced a prepared statement retracting those admissions, claiming they were untrue and only made up to help out others.

He denied any assault on Mr Meli.

But prosecution counsel Conor Maguire contended that others have alleged Laverty was involved in a one-on-one fight with the deceased at the location his body was found.

He said: "A number of witnesses state that while Mr Meli was being tended to by passers-by on the ground and placed in the recovery position, the applicant ran forward and kicked him in the stomach area.

"A further witness has stated that they heard the applicant shout 'Come on, we'll get knives and go after him', and that he was in the crowd of people that chased Mr Meli."

Laverty had been on bail but was returned to custody last month for allegedly breaching curfew and alcohol conditions in an incident where a car registered to him was found on fire.

Defence counsel Declan Quinn argued that he should be released again due to delays in the case.

Stressing his client was only 16 when he was arrested and interviewed about the alleged killing, Mr Quinn said: "He made various comments out of a misguided sense of loyalty to older persons at the scene."

Laverty told police who detained him for breaching bail last month that he is a paranoid schizophrenic, the court heard.

Although Mr Quinn described those assertions as "drunken bravado", Mr Justice Treacy insisted that he would need a medical opinion before considering any release from custody.

Denying bail, the judge said: "A renewed application can be made when you're in possession of a detailed report from an appropriate expert dealing with any mental health issues the applicant may or may not have."

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