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Police officer in the dock accused of perverting justice over murder

By Deborah McAleese

Published 18/02/2016

Cathy Thompson outside court yesterday
Cathy Thompson outside court yesterday
James McDonagh

A female police officer has appeared in court charged in connection with the murder of a man outside a nightclub last month.

Detective Sergeant Cathy Thompson was arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice and withholding information in relation to the murder of 28-year-old James McDonagh in Toomebridge.

The 33-year-old was charged with the offences at Magherafelt Magistrate's Court yesterday.

The court heard that Thompson, whose address was given as Coleraine PSNI Station, sent two text messages on January 10, the day of the attack.

The first message read: "yeah don't have anything in the house that you shouldn't have, they will then search the whole house for clothing", the court was told.

A second message read: "Tell him to behave and say nothing".

She was also accused of withholding information from police knowing that murder had been committed and that the information she had was likely "to be of material assistance in securing the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of some person for that offence".

Thompson, who has been suspended until the outcome of the case, did not speak during her brief court appearance.

A Detective Sergeant told the court he believed the defendant could be connected to the charges.

Thompson was released on her own bail of £500 to appear back before the court in April. As she left the courthouse she covered her face with the hood of her coat.

Mr McDonagh, from Castledawson, was attacked at the Elk Inn on the Hillhead Road in Toomebridge in the early hours of Sunday, January 10. He sustained a serious head injury and died in hospital a day later.

Finbar McCoy, a joiner aged 24 from Loughbeg Road near Toome, has been charged with Mr McDonagh's murder.

At his first court appearance McCoy denied the murder but admitted assaulting Mr McDonagh.

After his arrest he told detectives: "I can't bring words together to say how sorry I am, I've been so sad for the family, but I did not murder James McDonagh".

The court was told during his appearance that the cause of death was a blow to the back of the head, possibly caused by Mr McDonagh falling after he was attacked.

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