Belfast Telegraph

Antrim man killed friend in row over handbrake turns on beach, court told

Darren O’Neill died in hospital after allegedly being punched on a Co Down beach.
Darren O’Neill died in hospital after allegedly being punched on a Co Down beach.

By Alan Erwin

A man charged with the manslaughter of his life-long friend punched him once in a row over handbrake turns at a Co Down beach, the High Court heard today.

Joseph Dorian, 22, claimed he acted in self-defence during a confrontation about Darren O'Neill's driving.

Mr O'Neill, who was also 22 and from Belfast, died two days after the incident at Tyrella Beach on June 27 this year.

Dorian, of Lakeview in Crumlin, Co Antrim, is accused of his unlawful killing.

During a bail application the court heard the pair had gone to the seaside with two girls in a car belong to the defendant's family.

Emergency services were called following a report that Mr O'Neill was unconscious at the scene.

According to the prosecution Dorian alleged he only delivered a single punch after the deceased struck first and then told him to hit back.

The girls with them said the two men squared up after Mr O'Neill got into the vehicle and performed handbrake turns around the car park area.

One of them claimed he stumbled and fell to the ground before getting up again quickly.

"This witness said he seemed fine, the two males were talking about their close friendship and hugging, but then Mr O'Neill collapsed and was unresponsive," a Crown lawyer submitted.

In police interviews Dorian said they had been life-long friends.

He described how they had gone to the beach with the two girls after Mr O'Neill purchased a case of beer.

Prosecution counsel went on: "He said Mr O'Neill took off in the car and spun around doing handbrake turns.

"The applicant said he was annoyed about this and confronted him about his driving."

Later he stated that he reacted after being hit first, alleging that he threw one punch to protect himself.

"He said Mr O'Neill fell, got up again using both hands and walked a few feet away, bent down as if he was going to pick something up from the ground and then collapsed," the lawyer added.

"He said this was the first physical altercation between the two in years of friendship."

Concerns for Dorian's safety were also raised, with threatening messages naming him said to have been posted on Facebook.

Mr Justice McAlinden was told toxicology tests showed the deceased and taken alcohol and potentially Pregabalin medication.

Defence barrister Martin Morgan identified that as an issue for any future trial.

"It goes without saying this is a sad and tragic case," Mr Morgan acknowledged.

Granting bail to Dorian on conditions including a curfew and exclusion zone, the judge urged him to "keep his nose clean" from now on.

He told the accused: "It might give you the incentive to prove to your parents and the community at large that you take what has happened seriously, and you're prepared to make the effort to ensure the way you lead your life in future is some sort of testament to your friendship with the deceased."

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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