Jason McGovern: Witness may have been 'mistaken' over punch accused
The main prosecution witness in the trial of a Co Tyrone man accused of the unlawful killing of a Co Monaghan teenager, "accepted" today she may have been "mistaken" as identifying him as the attacker.
However, the witness refuted defence suggestions she had named Mark Donnelly as the man in the short sleeved white tee-shirt who delivered the one-punch which felled 19-year-old Jason McGovern, in an effort "to protect" a friend.
The teenager was giving evidence at the Dungannon Crown Court trial of 23-year-old Mark Donnelly, from Greencastle Road, Omagh, who denies the 2012 New Years' Eve manslaughter of Mr McGovern who later died following an attack in an Omagh carpark.
Mr McGovern from Tydavnet, in the Irish Republic, was found dead the following afternoon in a friend's home in Emyvale, Co Monaghan. A post mortem later revealled he died from bleeding to the brain caused by a fracture sustained hitting his head when punched to the ground.
The main prosecution witness, who later identified Donnelly as the attacker from police photograph "Number 7", initially described seeing a drunken and unsteady "young boy" reaching out for a pillar to stead himself when Donnelly ran forward and hit him once.
She told prosecuting QC Liam McCollum that she saw "Mark Donnelly punch the young boy ....the young boy's back was to me... he was on the pavement side of the pillar .... I saw Mark Donnelly punch the boy.... the boy just fell back and his head just smacked off the ground.
"I heard a thump and saw it (his head) bounce.....it was a big thump," added the girl who said she had known Donnelly "to see" for about six months, although she had never spoken to him.
The girl, at times tearful, said that afterwards Donnelly "just turned round and left", although she did not see where he went as she was "just looking at the boy on the ground" who was being helped to his feet by two others.
Later under cross-examination by defence QC Sean Doran, the witness said that in the week before making her police statement and identifying Donnelly as the attacker, there had been talk in school about the incident, but that she never revealled what she saw.
She said as she waited for her mother to pick her up from the Weigh Inn carpark in nearby Kelvin Avenue, in the early hours of New Years' Eve, it was 'dim and raining heavily' when the attack on Mr McGovern took place.
Time and again Mr Dornan put it to the witness the suggestion she was "uttely wrong" in her identification of Donnelly being the attacker who floored Mr McGovern with the single punch.
"I want to suggest to you, your evidence is totally wrong," said Mr Doran.
"My evidence," replied the girl, "is what I saw that night".
At one point when Mr Doran put it directly to the girl that she "could have been mistaken", initially replied "No", maintaining her evidence was based on her "memory of that night, that it was the boy in the white tee-shirt, Mark Donnelly who threw the punch".
Pressing her again over her identification of Donnelly, Mr Dornan then suggested to the witness that while she was "trying to help the court .... do you accept you could have made a mistake, is that right".
"Yes," came the reply.
However, when the lawyer suggested to her that when she had made her statement to police, she had "wanted to give an account that would protect" a former school friend.
"No. No," she emphatically said.
Later the teenager was to agree that she had even got the wrong colour for the taxi which had been waiting to pick up Mr McGovern and his friends to get them home.
"Another mistake about your recollection," said Mr Doran, adding: "And you accept you have made a number of mistakes in you recollection".
"Yes," said the girl.
A taxi driver who had gone to collect Mr McGovern and friends that evening spoke of her "shock" that having "left a child home a few hours earlier was dead and was having to make a statement about him. I had to think about what happened".
However, while she said Mr McGovern's attacker was wearing a "white or cream coloured top", she accepted that at the time she told police it was a 'bright coloured long-sleeved top, tucked into his trousers'.
In further examination from Mr McCollum, the taxi-driver said when she talked of "bright coloured", she meant 'white or cream' although she could not say how long the slieves of the tee-shirt were.