Belfast Telegraph

Eight more could face Christopher Meli death charges, court told

By Paul Higgins

Eight other people could face charges over the death of Christopher Meli, a court has heard.

The revelation came at Lisburn Magistrates Court, where one of three defendants accused of murder had his bail conditions varied to remove a reporting condition, extend his curfew and allow him back into greater Belfast.

Stephen McCann (20) is, however, still banned from going into the Poleglass and Twinbrook areas of the city.

McCann, from Bernagh Glen, along with 18-year-olds Caolan Laverty, from Broom Park, and Lee Smyth, from Colinbrook Gardens, all in Belfast, are jointly accused of the murder of Mr Meli on December 12, 2015.

The body of the 20-year-old father-of-one was discovered on a pathway in Glasvey Close in Twinbrook after he had been beaten to death. Detectives believe up to 20 people were involved in a number of violent incidents that ended in the murder on grassland known as Doc’s Lane.

Giving evidence to the court yesterday, the officer in charge of the investigation, DS McCready, revealed that eight other people had been reported to the PPS over the incident.

It is understood a decision over their potential prosecution is still being considered.

McCann’s defence solicitor John Finucane had earlier submitted that the condition that compels the defendant to report to police twice a week was putting an extra strain on the defendant’s family because of the time it took to get to the assigned station and back.

He further submitted that as the co-accused are allowed into the greater Belfast area, but still barred from Poleglass and Twinbrook, that condition should be varied so that all three are on an equal footing.

He added that “there’s absolutely no question” of McCann going to either area as “he doesn’t want to be provocative in any way”.

In relation to the curfew from 10pm to 7am, Mr Finucane submitted it was “quite restrictive” and highlighted that, as a 20-year-old with a clear record, McCann had “behaved impeccably” while on bail for the last 18 months with little prospect of a trial for “at least another year”.

The PPS lawyer said she had spoken to the directing officer who “hopes for a preliminary enquiry in September”. But Mr Finucane said, given the scale of the investigation and size of the file, “that is exceptionally optimistic”.

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