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Men to stand trial over murder bid during mob attack

Accused ‘part of 70-strong UDA gang’

By John Cassidy

Published 28/05/2015

The damage caused to a house at Knockdhu Park in Larne by a UDA gang in March last year
The damage caused to a house at Knockdhu Park in Larne by a UDA gang in March last year

Two men alleged in court to be "foot soldiers for the south east Antrim UDA" are to stand trial later this year accused of attempted murder in relation to disturbances in Larne last year.

Stephen Craig Mettleton (34), of Rossmore Court, and Steven Adam Blackwood (29), of Moyard Gardens, both in Greenisland, appeared in the dock of Belfast Crown Court for an arraignment hearing.

Both men pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder of Portuguese national Claudio Brito at his home in Knockdhu Park in Larne, on March 30, 2014.

They further denied charges of aggravated burglary with intent to cause damage, criminal damage and intimidating Mr Brito and Michelle Kerr "by force, threats or menaces or in some other way" to leave their home.

Also in the dock was their co-accused Elizabeth Sharon Milligan (37), of Grange Park, Ballyclare.

Milligan pleaded not guilty to a single charge she faced of attempting to pervert the course of justice on April 30, 2014 by making a false alibi statement to police about the movements of Stephen Mettleton. No details about the case were given in court yesterday but at a previous court hearing, a detective told a judge that Mettleton and Shaw were "foot soldiers in the south east Antrim UDA", adding that "initmidation is at the core of the UDA".

The court was told that a total of 29 people had been arrested in connection with the disturbances when a mob of between 70 to 100 people descended on Larne.

Ten minutes before the house at Knockdhu Park was attacked, a car pulled up outside and a man was heard to shout at the occupants inside: "You are all dead."

Up to a dozen masked men later entered the home armed with hammers, golf clubs and wooden sticks and assaulted Mr Brito, the court was told.

The officer said DNA belonging to Mettleton and Blackwood was found on a balaclava and gloves recovered by police in a bin near the house.

A hammer was also recovered from the bin which was alleged to contain the blood of the victim.

A prosecution lawyer said the victim suffered a punctured lung, broken legs and multiple stab wounds, adding: "He was certainly (beaten) unconscious and at the very least left for dead."

Mettleton and Blackwood have denied involvement in the attack, both claiming they were not in Larne.

Crown prosecutor Michael Chambers told the court yesterday that the date for the non-jury Diplock trial had been set for September 28 this year and it was expected to last five days.

Mettleton's defence barrister Greg Berry QC said he was still awaiting a report from an engineer and also reports from experts in the fields of DNA and cellphone site analysis. He told Judge Stephen Fowler QC that in his view, the trial date of September 28, 2015 was "achieveable".

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