Belfast Telegraph

Court hears of teacher Robert Flowerday's 'horrific' injuries as bail denied to murder accused

By Paul Higgins

A retired teacher murdered in his own home sustained injuries "of the most horrific nature", a court has heard

Antrim Magistrates Court also heard claims that 33-year-old Michael Gerard Owens allegedly confessed to a witness to the murder of Robert Flowerday.

During an unsuccessful bail application, a Detective Sergeant Walsh revealed there was a preliminary finding of a "positive DNA" result which allegedly connects Owens "to the murder scene".

As Mr Flowerday's relatives sat in the public gallery, the officer told the court - where Owens was appearing via videolink from prison - that he strongly objected to the alleged killer being freed on bail.

"I have seen what this man is capable of," the senior detective told the court.

"These injuries are of the most horrific nature, inflicted on an elderly man, in his own home, defenceless and there's been no remorse shown whatsoever.

"I think that certainly, I have a duty to protect the public and the vulnerable."

Unemployed Owens, from the Lisburn Road in Glenavy, is in custody accused of the murder of Mr Flowerday on January 28 this year and the burglary of Mr Flowerday's home on December 6 last year when he allegedly stole £100 cash.

The body of the 64-year-old retired Antrim Grammar maths teacher was found at his home on the Mill Road in Crumlin on Sunday, January 28, when police called at his house after a member of the public raised concerns.

DS Walsh told the court yesterday that Mr Flowerday had been at church that morning and had then tutored a student, returning home at around 3.15pm.

"He wasn't seen alive after that, except by the defendant, we would say," claimed the officer.

Mr Flowerday had been due to have another private tutoring session later that day, but when he didn't arrive, the family made a series of phone calls to his house.

After getting no answer, they called at his home.

"There was no response at the door and no life about the house," said DS Walsh. He added that their suspicions were raised when they spotted a male nearby, so they called the police.

Officers gained entry by the back door but they were confronted by a ransacked house, "blood on a lot of the surfaces of the house and the body of Mr Flowerday in the living room".

Owens was arrested two days later, but during a series of interviews, he "never commented or assisted in any shape or fashion".

District Judge Nigel Broderick asked the officer what evidence police had and DS Walsh told him the case at this stage was based on forensic evidence "from within the murder scene that police say connects Mr Owen" to it and also that he allegedly "made admissions to a witness after the event".

The judge also asked if anything had been stolen at the time of the killing, but the detective said the house "was so ransacked we can't say that for sure".

The officer said there had been "significant progress" in the forensic aspect of the case, in that a full report is expected "either by the end of this week or the beginning of next week". He said police were objecting to bail on several grounds, including a concern that Owens would reoffend, or flee the jurisdiction as he "potentially faces a lengthy custodial sentence" and might, if freed, interfere with the ongoing investigation.

The officer said police were still trying to locate clothing associated with Owens and police fear that if freed "he knows exactly where they are and he would certainly dispose of them".

Reminding the court that more than 600 people had attended a vigil for Mr Flowerday, DS Walsh said the murder "highlighted the fear of the community" and numerous public representatives had approached the police "to give testimony of the fear held by elderly residents in the Crumlin village and surrounding areas" over the murder.

"Members of the clergy, the police, public representatives and people from both sides of the community came together to show their disgust and fear," he said.

"So really, I think that should be taken into consideration and I think that should bail be granted, there would be widespread public anger," declared the officer.

In cross-examination, defence solicitor Tony Caher asked the officer about the exact nature of the DNA evidence said to connect Owens to the scene.

DS Walsh told the lawyer a "preliminary report" from the Forensic Science Agency said it had uncovered a "positive DNA profile... that indicates strongly that he was at the murder scene".

Mr Caher pressed the officer over the nature of the the DNA or what it had been found on, but the senior officer told him "really with the greatest of respect, I don't want to divulge too much".

However, he said it came from an item at the murder scene.

The defence lawyer suggested the witness who claimed Owens made a confession had a record. But the officer said he was not aware of that, and did not have the man's record "so I'm not going to speculate".

Despite Mr Caher's submissions that Owens' proposed bail address was suitable, the officer maintained it was not, as the person to act as surety had multiple convictions for dishonesty and the address was too close to the scene of the murder.

Mr Caher submitted the evidence against Owens was "extremely tenuous" and with no forensic report yet received and a "vehemently denied" supposed admission "it's quite outrageous that a person has been continued to be remanded on a dearth of evidence".

Remanding Owens into custody to appear again on May 15, Judge Broderick said he was refusing bail on multiple grounds, including a risk of further offences, an unsuitable bail address and the risk of him "interfering with the administration of justice". He advised the PPS "to reflect on their ongoing duty of disclosure," adding that by the next appearance, the forensic report should have been received.

Belfast Telegraph

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