Christopher Meli murder accused teen claims self-defence
A teenager accused of beating a young father to death in west Belfast claims he acted in self-defence, the High Court heard today.
Lee Smyth, 19, is one of three people charged with the murder of Christopher Meli in December 2015.
Prosecutors said he allegedly whistled for others to join in a group attack on the 20-year-old victim in the Twinbrook estate.
Smyth, of Colinbrook Gardens in the Dunmurry area of the city, is mounting a renewed bid for bail.
A judge was told issues of self-defence have been raised in the case.
Defence barrister Tom McCreanor argued: "This was a set of young people with a set of other young people.
"There was a fight at which this young man (Mr Meli) tragically lost his life."
Detectives believe up to 20 people were involved in a number of violent confrontations that led to the victim suffering fatal head injuries at Doc's Lane in the estate.
Previous courts heard he was set upon by a large group of both males and females, and subjected to "a sustained, savage attack."
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.
Another group of teenagers came together to exact revenge for that fight in which in one of their number sustained a nose injury, it was alleged.
Mr Meli was said to have been located, knocked to the ground and then repeatedly punched and kicked about the head.
Smyth, who denies the charge against him, went to police later that day to give an account of his alleged involvement in the wider incident.
He claimed to have exchanged blows with Mr Meli in a "fair fight" where both were on the ground as others set upon them, a judge was told.
Opposing his latest bail application, prosecution counsel Natalie Pinkerton contended: "One witness would say this applicant whistled to other members of the group to engage in violent activity."
Two others accused of the murder on a joint-enterprise basis, a 19-year-old man and a youth aged 17, are already on bail.
Another seven suspects were questioned and released by police pending a report to the Public Prosecution Service.
Smyth's legal team argued that he should also be allowed out of custody amid predictions that it could be several months before any trial gets underway.
Mr McCreanor insisted he had an address that would ensure no contact with any of those allegedly involved in the violence.
"The reliability of a single witness in this case is an issue," he added.
"But if the situation arose that two groups of people ended up in a conflict, this young man is going to be away from all that."
Adjourning the application for time to consider submissions, Mr Justice Burgess said: "I'm going to sleep on this."
Belfast Telegraph Digital