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Cocaine and alcohol factors in death of man allegedly killed by friend, court hears

Alan Erwin

Cocaine and alcohol intoxication contributed to the death of a man allegedly killed by his close friend in Lurgan, the High Court heard today.

A judge said the manslaughter charge against John McComb may have to be reconsidered following a pathologist's report into how Paul Curran died in March.

However, he still refused to grant 37-year-old McComb bail due to the risk of further offences.

The body of Mr Curran, 29, was discovered when paramedics were called to an address at Manor Drive in the Co Armagh town.

McComb, of Woodville Street in Lurgan, was arrested a short time later - having allegedly changed his clothes.

He accepted that he had been in a minor altercation with the deceased, but denied inflicting any fatal blows, the court heard.

His bail application was previously adjourned for expert opinion on whether the cause of death was down to excessive drugs or a traumatic brain injury from an assault.

Prosecution counsel revealed today that the pathologist has concluded a combination of cocaine and alcohol were likely to have led to Mr Curran's collapse.

But he did not rule out any altercation from being a contributory factor.

Although the manslaughter charge remains, a Public Prosecution Service representative is now due to consult with the pathologist over his report.

Mr Justice O'Hara commented: "In those circumstances it's clearly possible that the charge of unlawfully killing Paul Curran on March 9 may have to be reconsidered."

Maintaining opposition to bail, the Crown lawyer claimed there were fears for McComb's own safety.

"This was obviously a fairly traumatic incident, there's a grieving family and it's fair to say that there's a degree of animosity between the two families," he contended.

Defence counsel rejected claims of continuing tensions over the death, stressing that McComb wanted to clear his name and end any stigma.

"The deceased and the applicant were very close friends, and my instructions are that the families remain close," he said.

The barrister argued that Mr Curran's injuries backed his client's version of events that any altercation was minor.

"There will be serious arguments in respect of causation (of death) if this matter were to proceed," he added.

But ordering McComb to remain in custody, Mr Justice O'Hara said: "I'm not satisfied that he would adhere to terms of bail."

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