Belfast Telegraph

Nine men plead guilty to lesser charges over Kevin McDaid killing

BY ASHLEIGH McDONALD

Nine men facing charges arising from the death of Catholic community worker Kevin McDaid have pleaded guilty to a number of offences linked to his death. But none pleaded to manslaughter and of attempting to murder his friend Damien Fleming.

Although no details were given during yesterday's hearing at Belfast Crown Court, a preliminary enquiry into the death heard he was targeted when men claiming to be from the UDA launched a violent attack near his home in the Heights area of Coleraine.

At the hearing earlier this year, witnesses claimed Mr McDaid's wife Evelyn was also beaten, while Mr Fleming's head was kicked "like a rugby ball".

Mr McDaid collapsed and died after the incident.

Yesterday's proceedings before Mr Justice Weatherup began when legal representatives for four accused asked that their clients be rearraigned.

Aaron Thomas Beech (28), from John Street, Ballymena, pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Mr Fleming, assaulting Mr McDaid causing him actual bodily harm and causing an affray on May 24, 2009.

Ivan Beattie McDowell (47), from Taggart Mews in Ballymoney, also admitted causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

Crown prosecutor Ciaran Murphy QC told Mr Justice Weatherup the guilty charges were accepted.

David Craig Cochrane (23), from Windyhall Park, and Rodney Gardner (46), from Knocklynn Grange, both in Coleraine, were rearraigned on a charge of causing an affray on May 2009.

They both pleaded guilty, with charges of manslaughter and attempted murder left on the books.

Mr Justice Weatherup released them on continuing bail.

Two more men pleaded guilty to lesser charges.

James McAfee (32), from Lisnablagh Road in Coleraine, and Christopher McDowell (38), from Castle Walk Mews in Castlerock, both pleaded guilty to a single charge of affray.

Johnathon Sterling (25), from Windyhall Park, Coleraine, was accused of threatening to kill Marion O'Neill and threatening to harm her. He pleaded guilty to making a threat to harm.

John Freeman (24), from Sunderland Road in Belfast, admitted intimidating witnesses and pleaded guilty to common assault.

Frank Daly (53), from Oakland Walk in Coleraine, pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Mr Fleming, assault causing actual bodily harm to the McDaids, and causing an affray.

Five other defendants deny a range of offences including the manslaughter of Mr McDaid and attempted murder of Mr Fleming.

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