Belfast Telegraph

Vicious attack that killed man in Armagh was 'random and unprovoked', court hears

An alleged attack on a man kicked to death in Co Armagh was completely random and unprovoked, the High Court heard today.

Lee Smyth's killers stamped on his head as he lay motionless on the ground, prosecutors claimed.

A judge was also told that a witness in the case has been subjected to "constant interference".

Details emerged as one of two men accused of the killing sought permission to move back home and attend his work's Christmas party.

Gareth McKinney, 23, of Cabragh Road, Armagh, is out on bail charged with the murder.

Mr Smyth, 32, suffered serious head injuries in a "vicious assault" in the Folly area of the city in June 2010, according to the prosecution.

He was left in a vegetative state for two years until a decision was taken to turn off his life-support machine two years later.

Murder charges were brought against McKinney and another man after a woman came forward to say she had witnessed the attack on the victim, the court heard.

Tessa Kitson, prosecution, said: "This involved stamping and kicking him in the head as he lay motionless and defenceless on the ground."

McKinney, a tree surgeon currently living at a bail address in Portadown, wanted to be allowed to go to a staff party and stay overnight in Belfast.

Opposing any lifting of an alcohol ban, Mrs Kitson told the court police believe both accused were under the influence of drink or drugs at the time of the alleged attack.

"The assault was unprovoked, there was no fight or verbal row between the deceased and either the applicant or his co-accused," she added.

"It seems to have been totally random."

McKinney's bid to be allowed back into Armagh was also objected to, based on the presence of another witness in the case.

"He has been subjected to constant interference," the barrister claimed.

"I'm not saying it's from the applicant, but it's obviously people who have the applicant's interests at heart."

Mr Justice Maguire said he would allow McKinney to stay overnight in Belfast, but refused to permit him to drink.

"If he wants to go to the party and take no alcohol at all that's fine," the judge said.

Adjourning the application to return to the Armagh area, he stressed: "I'm not going to put him close to a witness who is under pressure."

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