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Tensions still very high over James McDonagh killing, court is told

By George Jackson

Published 15/01/2016

Victim: James McDonagh
Victim: James McDonagh

Tensions are still running "very high" after the death of a 28-year-old man outside a Co Londonderry bar at the weekend, a court was told yesterday.

James McDonagh, from Castledawson, died from head injuries he sustained following a single punch attack outside the Elk Bar.

Joiner Finbar McCoy (24), from Loughbeg Road in Toomebridge, appeared before Derry Magistrates Court, where 20 police officers had been deployed.

The court was told that in reply to the murder charge put to him on Wednesday after three days of questioning, the defendant said: "I can't bring words together to say how sorry I am. I feel so sad for the family, but I did not murder James McDonagh."

Throughout the brief hearing McCoy stood in the dock with his head bowed and spoke only to confirm that he understood the nature of the charge against him.

A detective sergeant told District Judge Barney McElholm he believed he could connect the defendant to the alleged crime and claimed McCoy had admitted punching the victim.

He also told how a post-mortem examination had confirmed Mr McDonagh died of injuries sustained when he hit his head after falling backwards from a punch.

The officer further claimed that tensions were running "very high" in the victim's area and said that police were still investigating a number of potential leads that they intended to proceed with as quickly as possible.

Defence barrister Mark Mullholland QC told the court that there would be no bail application at this stage.

The lawyer described the case as a tragedy and said that his client had fully co-operated with police since being arrested at his home on Sunday.

The detective sergeant confirmed that the defendant, through his solicitor, had contacted the police on Sunday night following the incident outside the Elk Bar.

Mr McElholm remanded the defendant in continuing custody to appear before the same court for a video-link hearing on February 11.

Three other men who were detained for questioning about Mr McDonagh's death were all released on police bail earlier this week pending further enquiries.

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