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Derry man charged with attempted murder in arrow and axe attack

By George Jackson

A 48-year-old man has appeared in court charged with the attempted murder of his US born neighbour by allegedly firing an arrow at him from his compound longbow after their friendship of over twenty years had ended acrimoniously.

Brian Gerald Forbes from Glenanne in the Brandywell area of Derry was arrested at his home on Tuesday morning by members of the PSNI's Armed Response Unit who were called to deal with what the court was told was a series of bizarre and erratic incidents outside the victim's Glendara home.

The defendant has denied attempting to murder his former friend by firing an arrow at him as the victim crouched behind his front door. He also denied threatening to kill his neighbour by shouting at him "I am going to kill you, get your bike and leave".

However the defendant has admitted causing criminal damage to his neighbour's home by hacking his ground floor front door with a large axe and by firing an arrow which struck the victim's bedroom window.

He also admits possessing the compound longbow, three arrows and an axe in a public place.

The police witness told District Judge Barney McElholm that the victim said he was watching television in his bedroom when at eight o'clock on Tuesday morning he heard a loud bang against his bedroom window.

He got up and went outside where he saw the defendant standing about twenty feet away on a footpath and loading an arrow into his longbow. The officer said the injured party was afraid and retreated into his home.

Once inside he looked out of his front door and saw the defendant advancing towards his flat carrying a large axe.

The detective constable said: "As he crouched behind his front door the injured party looked out and saw the suspect loading the bow and arrow and pointing it towards him. The suspect fired off an arrow which struck and lodged in the door.

"The injured party pulled the arrow out of the door, went back into his home and closed the door. The suspect then struck the door with the axe between seven and eleven times over a period of one minute. He then walked to his nearby home were he was arrested by members of the Armed Response Unit."

The officer said she opposed the defendant being granted bail because of fear of re-offending and because the victim was in genuine fear that the alleged threats against him would be carried out.

Applying for bail defence solicitor Eugene Burns said the defendant had no record for offences of a violent nature. He said the two men first met while working on building sites in London in 1994 and when the defendant returned to his native Derry in 2000 he brought the defendant with him.

Initially they stayed in the defendant's flat before the injured party moved into his own flat nine months after arriving in Derry.

Mr. Burns said the close friendship gradually deteriorated and eventually ended. He said the defendant had a mental health history and committed those offences which he has admitted after he'd stopped taking his medication and after he'd disengaged from the community mental health team.

He said for the last twenty years the defendant was a daily user of cannabis because he believed it had therapeutic benefits for his mental and physical health issues.

"He has no history of violence but he has hit rock bottom in terms of his mental health", Mr. Burns said.

Adjourning the bail application District Judge Barney McElholm said his primary duty was the protection of the public.

"What was he doing wandering around with the bow and arrow anyway?" he said.

"The public has the right to say to the Courts we cannot have people running around with bows and arrows and axes", he added.

The District Judge said he would adjourn the bail application until a video link hearing on January 12.

He said by that date he hoped to have details of the defendant's medication, evidence of his therapeutic counselling and a full mental health assessment. In the meantime the defendant was remanded in custody.

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