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Omagh one-punch trial: Accused may not have meant to kill Jason McGovern but he is responsible, court told

By Michael Donnelly

Published 28/05/2015

The accused, Mark Donnelly
The accused, Mark Donnelly
Jason McGovern died the day after a one-punch attack in Omagh

The trial of a man accused of the unlawful killing of a teenager in a so-called one-punch attack heard that while he may not have intended to kill, he was still responsible for the death.

The claim was made at the start of the trial of 23-year-old Mark Donnelly, who denies killing Jason McGovern (19) on New Year's Eve 2012.

Mr McGovern from Tydavnet in Monaghan was found dead the following afternoon in a friend's home in Emyvale, Co Monaghan, after the attack in Omagh.

Crown lawyer Simon Reid told Dungannon Crown Court that in murder cases there had to be an intention to kill. However, he said the prosecution was not suggesting this in Donnelly's case, or that he had intended to cause serious injury.

The court also heard that Donnelly, from Greencastle Road, Omagh, and four others were convicted of an affray - unlawful fighting - that night.

Mr Reid said the incident outside The Terrace Bar in Omagh's John Street - in which a friend of Mr McGovern was punched in the face - was a prelude to the later attack on Mr McGovern.

The jury also heard that this incident was captured on CCTV, but the actual attack on Mr McGovern a short distance away in the Weigh Inn car park in nearby Kevlin Street was not.

However, Mr Reid claimed that Donnelly was identified by a witness who knew him as being the man in a white T-shirt who threw the single punch which put Mr McGovern on his back.

Mr Reid said a taxi driver identified this attacker as a man in a white or cream top.

Counsel said that the eyewitness who claims to have known Donnelly initially described seeing a young man, clearly drunk, walking into the Weigh Inn car park. He put his hand on a pillar, as if to steady himself.

Mr Reid said she then recognised Donnelly, who approached the man by the pillar, and "hit that boy one punch... and that it hit him, it seemed, on the head, and he just went down and backwards".

Counsel added that as Mr McGovern hit the ground "there was a smack on the ground... it was a really loud thump... and you could see it (his head) bounce".

The court heard that the teenager was later helped into a taxi and that he was described as being quiet on the journey to the home of a friend. He said that when they got home, both were tired and drunk and went to his room to sleep.

About three or four in the morning, Mr McGovern was sick and wanted to sleep on the floor, so his friend got him a duvet. The teenager's snoring forced his friend to leave the bedroom and when he returned in the early afternoon, he found him face down.

His arm was cold and he was unresponsive. A local doctor later pronounced him dead. A post mortem carried out in Navan Hospital by the Republic's Deputy State Patholigist Michael Curtis reported that there was a fracture to Mr McGovern's head.

This had caused bleeding to the brain and the resulting pressure led to his death. The pathologist said that the fracture had been caused by an impact of his head on the ground, and the resulting underlying bleeding allowed a build-up of pressure, causing his death.

The court also heard that during interviews Donnelly fully accepted being captured on CCTV and identified himself on the footage. However, said Mr Reid, he denied that he "assaulted Mr McGovern and therefore he is denying he is guilty of manslaughter".

But in his opening, the lawyer claimed that by the end of the three-week trial, the "evidence is such" that the jury could come to the conclusion that "he is guilty as charged".

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