Belfast Telegraph

Brother of man jailed for one punch killing in court on charges linked to the incident

By George Jackson

The brother of a man jailed for a single punch killing went on trial yesterday on charges linked to the incident.

Michael McCoy, whose sibling Finbar admitted the manslaughter of James McDonagh outside the Elk Bar almost two years ago, faces two counts of intending to pervert the course of justice by sending two text messages to a friend just hours after the attack.

The 22-year-old is also charged with possessing a firearm in suspicious circumstances and purchasing or acquiring a Winchester shotgun without a firearms certificate.

McCoy, from Loughbeg in Toomebridge, is also accused of possessing ammunition in suspicious circumstances, purchasing or acquiring eight boxes of shotgun shells and 12 loose shells without a firearms certificate and moving a shotgun and shells from his home knowing that it was going to be searched by the police.

Mr McDonagh, a member of the travelling community, died in hospital the day after he sustained a head injury when he fell backwards and hit his head off the ground in the car park after being punched in the early hours of January 10, 2016.

Finbar McCoy, who struck the victim once to the chin, was jailed for one year earlier this month when he pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

A prosecutor told Londonderry Crown Court the defendant's family was in the Elk Bar for a surprise retirement party for his father Finbar Senior, who had worked in the bar.

He said: "Some time after 2am the defendant's father Finbar Senior was involved in an altercation with James McDonagh in the car park outside.

"It would appear when the altercation took place the defendant had already left the bar and had gone home.

"His brother Finbar Junior arrived at the car park from his home. He had been called by his sister to take their parents home. He was driven to the bar by Dermot Gribben, a family friend.

"When Finbar Junior arrived with Mr Gribben, they saw the commotion outside the bar.

"Finbar Junior believed his parents had been assaulted by Mr McDonagh or by those associated with him.

"James McDonagh was identified to Finbar Junior as the person responsible for assaulting his parents.

"Finbar Junior went towards Mr McDonagh and punched him with his right fist once to the chin. That caused both of them to fall to the ground. Mr McDonagh fell backwards and he became very rapidly unconscious and never regained consciousness."

He was then transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast and died at 2.38pm on January 11.

"There is no suggestion the defendant Michael McCoy was involved in the incident outside the Elk Bar," the prosecutor told the jury.

The barrister said when the defendant McCoy was interviewed by the police, he volunteered to them that he had removed two shotguns and ammunition from his home to his nearby uncle's home.

He said the defendant was not licensed to keep the firearms but his uncle was.

The barrister said the defendant also sent two text messages to Dermot Gribben following the incident outside the Elk Bar.

One of the messages stated: "Your fine, don't worry. If your asked you don't know anything, you just done a lift for the family. Say nothing about the fight because we have gave are statements and that's the story we are going with."

The trial, which is expected to last until Thursday, continues.

Belfast Telegraph

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