A self-confessed killer is facing prison after he admitted the fatal stabbing of a burglar who stole cannabis from his east Belfast house.
David Matchett (30) was due to go on trial for the murder of Reece Leeman at Craigavon Crown Court yesterday, but following discussions between senior barristers for the prosecution and defence, an additional charge of manslaughter was added to the indictment.
With Matchett appearing at court by videolink from his solicitor’s office and the family of Mr Leeman sitting in the public gallery at the courthouse, defence QC Eugene Grant asked for that charge to be put to the 30 year-old.
Matchett then admitted the unlawful killing of Mr Leeman on March 15, 2019.
Following his confession, prosecuting QC Philip Mateer told Judge Patrick Lynch QC the plea to the lesser offence was being by accepted by the Crown on the basis that initially, Matchett “began responding in an act of lawful self defence” but that as it developed “he exercised more than what was reasonable self defence in all the circumstances, taking him beyond the scope of what was lawful”.
At the time, Matchett lived on Kyle Street in the Sydenham area of east Belfast when Mr Leeman and his friend Robert McQuaide burgled his house to steal drugs.
While McQuaide grabbed the cannabis and fled, Mr Leeman was stabbed inside the property and, having been injured, he made his way to nearby Connsbrook Avenue where he collapsed and tragically died, the court was told.
Last month at the same court, 21-year-old McQuaide, from Broadlands Gardens in Carrick, entered a guilty plea to a single count of burglary. He was also handed 30 months on probation and 100 hours of community service.
In that case, the court heard that Mr Leeman and McQuaide had been driving around east Belfast when they decided to go to the home of Matchett “and steal cannabis [as] they believed he would have drugs there”.
“They approached on foot, covered their faces to conceal their identities and McQuaide rapped the front door, and when it opened, he grabbed Mr Matchett by the throat, pinning him to a wall and a demand was made for the weed,” said prosecuting counsel James Johnston.
He added that after McQuaide went to the kitchen where he lifted the jar of cannabis, Matchett, armed with a knife, chased both men outside.
“What follows thereafter resulted, tragically, in the fatal stabbing of Mr Leeman,” he told the court.
Arrested and questioned, McQuaide “openly admitted this offence and did so when he was being interviewed about the circumstances of Mr Leeman’s death”.
In court yesterday, Judge Lynch said he was satisfied that having heard from Mr Mateer and having read the papers in the case, “the prosecution approach is appropriate and therefore I direct that count one of murder is left on the books”.
Mr Grant told the judge he would be lodging an expert psychiatric report in addition to the pre-sentence probation report, suggesting that with the Christmas break, he may need a longer than usual adjournment to allow time for reports to be prepared.
Freeing Matchett on bail pending the completion of a probation report, Judge Lynch said he would pass sentence on January 28, but warned the defendant that given the seriousness of the incident, “there’s no doubt whatsoever about the ultimate disposal”.