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Eddie Meenan murder: accused Sean Rodgers ‘really sorry’ over involvement as he claims self-defence


Eddie Meenan

Eddie Meenan

Eddie Meenan

A man accused of murder has said he "wanted to come clean and tell the truth" about his involvement "for the sake of the family".

Sean Rodgers is one of two men currently standing trial for the November 2018 murder of Derry father Eddie Meenan. Rodgers and Ryan Walters (22) of Station Park in Crossgar, deny murdering Meenan and wounding another man.

A third man, Derek William Creswell (29) of Kings Lane in Ballykelly, also initially denied both charges but during the third week of the trial he dramatically changed his plea and admitted both charges. He will be sentenced at the conclusion of the trial.

Meenan (52) was beaten and stabbed to death at the rear of a house in the Creggan Street area of the city. His friend, Billy McConnell, was also injured in the incident.

Rodgers, who at the time of the murder was living at Seamus Ruddy House in Derry, was called to the witness stand today.

Admitting for the first time that he attacked Meenan, the 34-year-old apologised to the victim’s family and said: "At the start I was lying and trying to cover up. Now I just want to come clean and tell the court that I was involved in what happened. For the family's sake, I want them to have closure."

Before this, Judge Donna McColgan QC addressed the jury of nine men and one woman at Derry Crown Court, sitting in Belfast.

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She told them that Rodgers’ legal team was not present "as they are no longer acting" for him, adding "you are not to read anything into that at all”.

After he was called to give evidence, Rodgers said that on the day and evening of Saturday, November 24, 2018, he was in the company of his friends Derek Creswell and Sinead Whyte, who lived at Creggan Street.

He said they had been drinking then went into town for a period before he and Creswell returned to Whyte's house.

At this point, Whyte was not with them. A third man - Ryan Walters - joined them in her house.

Rodgers said: "We all sat and had a big drink. We were all drinking away and the next thing I turned round and there were two masked men at the back door. It caught us off guard. We were in the kitchen. I looked and I freaked out and it just triggered fight or flight. That kicked in and I ran out the back door.

"The back door was open and we were trying to keep it locked and they were pushing forward and back, the two masked men.

"I was punched in the eye while I was trying to get the back door shut so I opened the door and just ran out and... with my hands, no weapons, I was fighting with my hands."

When asked who he was fighting with, Rodgers replied: "The person I now know as Edward Meenan. I was fighting with him."

Rodgers claimed that while he was fighting with Meenan, Walters and Creswell first attacked McConnell who managed to flee, then "joined in" on the assault of Meenan.

He added: "Everybody was terrified. If you see two masked men at your door, you're going to freak out, plus we seen the weapons they had too, like metal rod things.

"It just scared the life out of us. I didn't know if there were more people in the back yard. It was pitch black. We didn't know if there were more people, we were panicking, we didn't know who had a gun.

"Everybody just started attacking him, and I seen Ryan hitting him with a baseball bat. I was just using my hands at this stage, kicking and punching him.

"Somebody lifted the weapon he was using and started hitting him with it too. Then somebody stabbed him. I don't know which one, who stabbed him.

"Whenever he was getting dragged, his clothes started coming off, his jeans. Then them ones started taking his clothes off... and putting them into a bag.

"Everybody was panicking, everybody thought it was the RA. That area is where stuff like that happens, so everybody thought it was the RA coming and everybody just panicked.

"We didn't know it was Mr Meenan until after the assault, when the balaclava was took off. Then we realised who it was. I was shocked because I got on well with him. I don't know why he would come to that house."

Rodgers said that, following the attack, he went with Creswell and Walters to his mother's house at Little Diamond where they started a fire and burned items including Meenan's clothes. He also admitted burning his own blood-stained clothing and footwear.

Rodgers - who maintained up until today that he was in the house at the time but was upstairs sleeping - admitted lying to the police because he didn't want to go to jail.

He also claimed his involvement and the lies he told had been on his mind and he wanted to "tell the truth".

He told Judge McColgan: "I'm really sorry, Your Honour, for the victim's family. I'm really, really sorry this happened. I do feel for the family. I knew him well myself. I was fighting for self-defence. I didn't mean to kill anyone, I really didn't."

The trial continues.

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