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It was all in self-defence, says murder bids accused

By Alan Erwin

Published 28/11/2015

A man accused of being at meetings where suspected Continuity IRA chiefs plotted terror attacks is to be released from custody, a High Court judge ruled
A man accused of being at meetings where suspected Continuity IRA chiefs plotted terror attacks is to be released from custody, a High Court judge ruled

A man accused of trying to stab two cousins to death at a north Belfast apartment block claims he acted in self-defence, the High Court heard.

Edward and Michael Rosbotham both sustained multiple knife wounds in an attack after a drink and drugs-fuelled party last month, a judge was told.

James Bell faces charges of attempting to murder the pair at the Delaware Building on the Limestone Road.

The 38-year-old, of Parkend Street in Belfast, was granted bail but banned from entering the city.

Prosecution lawyer Conor Gillespie said police were called to the scene at 6.30am on October 19.

Bell was challenged and brought to the ground after emerging from the building carrying two knives.

Edward Rosbotham had earlier run out of the complex before collapsing 150 yards away, according to Mr Gillespie.

He had four stab wounds to his back and side and spent four weeks in intensive care.

The court heard that he suffered a punctured lung and had to have his spleen removed.

His cousin Michael Rosbotham was discovered in a hallway inside the building. He had also been stabbed four times in the chest and back.

Bell, originally from Cookstown but with an apartment in the same block, faces further charges of assaults on a police officer, a designated PSNI representative and threatening to kill them both in connection with the same incident.

He had been drinking and taking cocaine at Michael Rosbotham’s flat before a row led to him being asked to leave, the court heard. It was claimed he then tried to goad the pair into coming out for “a fair dig”.

Mr Gillespie continued: “Mr Bell stated Michael and Edward turned up at his door with a knife, he grabbed it and had one of his own that he used in self-defence.”

Martin Morgan, defending, alleged the initial threats and aggression came from Edward Rosbotham. He argued that the cousins then went looking for Bell, who armed himself with a small steak knife when he realised they had a larger blade. The accused grabbed the knife from Edward Rosbotham and put it down, cutting his own hand in the process, before “jabbing out” at the pair, his lawyer claimed.

“He didn’t lunge or thrust (at them),” Mr Morgan insisted.

Mr Justice Burgess was told it had been Bell who rang the police and handed over both knives.

“This didn’t happen in the Rosbotham flat, this happened near the defendant’s apartment,” Mr Morgan added.

“They are saying the defendant attacked them — what were they doing there at six in the morning?”

Granting bail for Bell to live with a sister in Dungannon, the judge imposed a £5,000 surety as part of the release conditions.

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