Belfast Telegraph

One word repeated 21 times, and two bereaved families embrace in relief

BY CHRIS KILPATRICK

After more than three years of denials it took just minutes for George Brown to finally end the agony of two families.

The relief among the families and friends of Neil McFerran and Aaron Davidson was stark as they embraced in the foyer of the court afterwards.

There were tears, but there were also brief smiles following the unexpected move by Brown.

He had been due to go on trial next week charged with carrying out defective work on the north coast apartment where the two 18-year-olds died in August 2010.

All 21 charges were put to him again yesterday, each followed in return by the same response from Brown: "Guilty."

Dressed in a dark suit, he faced forward throughout the brief hearing, his hands clasped in front.

He was told to return to the same court for sentencing in March.

As he left the dock Brown avoided eye contact with the victims' families in the public gallery.

He again ducked any potential meeting with them afterwards, waiting in the court building for more than an hour afterwards before leaving.

Neil and Aaron, along with friend Matthew Gaw, had travelled to the apartment to relax ahead of receiving their exam results.

It was their last week together before they prepared to head their separate ways to university.

Aaron and Neil had known each other since the age of three and grew up just streets apart in Newtownabbey.

But their dreams and the lives of their families were shattered by a silent killer within the property.

Speaking previously, Aaron's father George told of the horrific scene which met him when he raced to Castlerock, having been unable to make contact with his son.

The three boys lay motionless in the apartment, having been overcome by carbon monoxide gas.

"Aaron was lying on the settee, Matthew was on the settee and Neil was lying at the back of the settee," he said.

"We tried to give him mouth-to-mouth and compressions, but there was no response whatsoever.

"We phoned for the ambulance, the police and everybody but no one could do a thing for us. He was gone."

Brown, who had done work in the apartment, was arrested the following April.

Until yesterday he repeatedly denied his role in the teens' deaths.

The families didn't wish to comment publicly on the move.

Asked on a previous occasion if she felt anger about what had happened, Neil's mother Catherine replied: "No. I never felt any anger, just devastation."

"We've had unbelievable support. We have fantastic friends and family who have been here for us, looking after us with help and support," she said, speaking on the one-year anniversary of their deaths.

"We know there are lots of people praying for us. That has certainly made a difference.

"You don't understand yourself how you are surviving from one day to the next, because you wake up every day to devastation. You just try your best to get through that day, every day."

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