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Jury clears man charged with threatening to kill pair while armed with cleaver and hammer

By Ashleigh McDonald

Published 23/02/2016

Geoffrey Doherty leaves Belfast Crown Court after being acquitted
Geoffrey Doherty leaves Belfast Crown Court after being acquitted

A man has been acquitted of arming himself with a meat cleaver and hammer and threatening to kill a man and his partner.

It took the Omagh Crown Court jury just over an hour-and-a-half to clear Geoffrey Paul Doherty, from Meadow Close in Newtownstewart, Co Tyrone, of the five charges he had faced.

The 36-year-old had always denied issuing death threats to the couple at their Ballycolman estate home in Strabane on September 1, 2014.

He had also denied possessing two offensive weapons and common assault. By their verdicts the jury of eight men and four women accepted Doherty's claims that he would not have needed to arm himself as he had enough "Dutch courage" in him.

The jury also heard that despite being arrested a short time later, Doherty was unarmed and nothing was uncovered in a subsequent follow-up search.

It was the Crown's case that following an initial altercation between the two men - which the prosecution say was started by Doherty when he came "swinging" at the other man as he walked home from the town centre - Doherty then went to the man's house and issued threats while brandishing the meat cleaver and claw hammer.

During his three-day trial, while Doherty admitted there had been an altercation between him and the man that morning, he denied starting the fight. He claimed he had met the man, whom he alleged was a drug dealer protected by Republican Action Against Drugs, by arrangement.

He also admitted that he spent the rest of the day brooding over having come off the worst during the initial confrontation, and some six hours later a drunken Doherty went to the man's home.

"I was a bit sore, injured. I was angry. My pride was hurt a wee bit," Doherty told the court.

But he also accepted that going to the man's house was "the worst decision I made that day... going back up the estate and leaving myself open to all these lies".

With injuries to the side of his head, as well as a "busted mouth" after the first meeting, Doherty said that alcohol clouded his judgment.

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