Belfast Telegraph

Couple in court over homophobic knife attack refused bail as 'stomach-churning' photos of injuries revealed

By Paul Higgins

A judge has refused bail to a husband and wife accused of attacking a woman because she was in a lesbian relationship after seeing "stomach-churning" pictures of slash injuries to the victim's face.

Declining to free James and Geraldine Ward, District Judge Peter King told Lisburn Magistrates Court: "In my practice as a defence counsel, I have gone through far too many post-mortem photographs.

"However, few have made my stomach churn the way these photographs have."

Ward (43) and his 44-year-old wife, both from Lawn Park in Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, and a third man, Simon McDonagh (33), from Carnmore Rise in Enniskillen, are jointly charged with inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent and possessing a knife with intent to cause grievous bodily harm on May 29 this year.

It was claimed at previous hearings that the woman was attacked over claims she was in a relationship with the Wards' daughter. Police treated the incident as a hate crime.

The victim alleged she was cut with a carpet knife after accepting that she was to be "punished" at a meeting with the girl's parents near a police station in Lurgan, Co Armagh.

The woman told police that she became aware on May 26 that the Wards were planning to harm her over the alleged relationship, but she managed to evade the couple for three days.

According to her account, she was phoned and was told the couple had arrived in the town with McDonagh to look for her. During the call, the person on the other side is alleged to have told her: "We are coming to get you. If we have to stay here a month, we will get you."

She alleged she then walked to a car park where the couple grabbed her and attempted to pull her into a vehicle. At that point, Ward allegedly urged his wife: "Cut the face off her or I'm going to do it."

It was claimed that Geraldine Ward then produced a carpet knife and slashed the woman's face several times.

Yesterday, a detective constable confirmed the Wards' alleged victim had made a withdrawal statement, but added that the police "do not believe that's been done of the injured party's entire own volition".

McDonagh denies knowing that any knife attack was to be carried out.

Under cross-examination from defence barrister Peter Coiley, the detective confirmed that despite the withdrawal statement and legal obstacles to be overcome regarding admissibility of evidence, the case against the defendants would continue.

The lawyer submitted that all three were charged on the basis of a joint enterprise. He added that with McDonagh already freed, the victim living at an undisclosed address and the Wards address in Donegal deemed suitable by police, his clients could be released on bail, albeit under "stringent conditions."

The officer replied that police "have very grave concerns" for the safety of the alleged victim.

Refusing to release the Wards as he was not "persuaded there had been a change of circumstance," Judge King said while the "evidential matrix is complicated, the factual matrix is not."

"I'm dealing with a case where gross violence was meted out in a crime inspired by clear hostility to someone's sexual orientation," added the judge, ordering the Wards to appear again in a week.

Belfast Telegraph

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