A 23-year-old man accused of killing his friend in a 'one-punch' incident on Tyrella Beach claimed he acted in self-defence, a jury heard yesterday.
However, the punch thrown by Joseph Dorrian which claimed the life of west Belfast man Darren O'Neill (22) was, according to a Crown barrister, "an entirely unnecessary, unjustified unlawful act" and it was a blow struck "not in self-defence but in anger".
The case against Dorrian - who denies the charge - was opened yesterday at Downpatrick Crown Court.
The men travelled from Belfast to Tyrella Beach in Dorrian's father's car, together with two female friends, on June 27, 2019.
Crown barrister Gavan Duffy QC said that after stopping at an off-licence in west Belfast, the four arrived at Tyrella Beach around 5pm. On the journey, Mr O'Neill drank beer and told the girls he had taken a 'Bud' - a nickname for the prescribed painkiller Lyrica/Pregabalin.
When they arrived, Dorrian, from Lakeview in Crumlin, parked his father's Seat Arona and the men went into the water before returning to the car and playing music.
Witnesses described the group as being in good spirits. However a member of the public called the police at 7pm to register concern that four people were drinking and that one of them may drive the car. Mr Duffy told the jury "it has never been suggested" that Dorrian was "intoxicated to the point he was unable to drive the car" but confirmed a concerned call was made to police.
At around 7pm, Mr O'Neill got into the car and started driving it around the beach. A witness described Mr O'Neill as "raking about in the car", doing hand-break turns and driving at speed.
Whilst Mr O'Neill was doing this, a witness said Dorrian was "cracking up", that he was annoyed and angry, and was heard saying he was going to hit Mr O'Neill when he came back.
It's the Crown's case that Mr O'Neill got out of the car, he was approached by an angry Dorrian who slapped him. Mr O'Neill hit him back, there was an angry exchange and one of their female friends tried to intervene but was pushed away by Mr O'Neill.
The men continued to argue, and Mr O'Neill said to Dorrian: "Come on, hit me." At that point Dorrian struck Mr O'Neill's jaw with his right fist with some force.
The blow caused Mr O'Neill to fall on his backside, but after a few seconds he got back up. The two men then said they shouldn't be fighting and hugged each other, but then Mr O'Neill collapsed.
Mr Duffy said his colour changed, he was having difficulty breathing and it was clear he was in a "very bad way." Whilst waiting on an ambulance, CPR was performed on Mr O'Neill at the scene.
Whilst Dorrian was detained by police, Mr O'Neill was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast. He arrived at 9pm and was taken to the Intensive Care Unit. Despite medical intervention, he passed away on June 29.
A post mortem which was performed on July 1 concluded that the cause of Mr O'Neill's death was the blow struck by Dorrian. The pathologist said the force of the blow to the jaw caused a tear in an internal artery that carries blood to the brain, which led to a bleed on the brain and a cardiac arrest.
Following his arrest, Dorrian was taken to Banbridge police station where he was interviewed four times. Whilst he denied he had anything to drink, he declined to provide a sample for analysis. He told police he was annoyed at the manner in which Mr O'Neill was driving his father's car on the beach, but not angry.
Dorrian made the case that after Mr O'Neill got out of the car there was a confrontation and they were standing with foreheads touching. He claims Mr O'Neill threw a punch which glanced off Dorrian's shoulder and struck his jaw.
Dorrian said he "responded immediately" to this to protect himself as he feared he was going to be struck again. This response caused Mr O'Neill to fall backwards, with Dorrian saying that when Mr O'Neill got back up again he walked a short distance before collapsing.
Mr Duffy said that when it was put to Dorrian this was a punch administered after Mr O'Neill said "come on, hit me" and was therefore not self-defence.
This was denied by Dorrian, who said it was an "immediate reaction in self-defence".
The trial, which is expected to last around two weeks, is due to resume today.