Belfast Telegraph

Death fall inquest no-show witnesses face fines

By Rebecca Black

Six eyewitnesses who saw a man fall to his death from the top of an apartment block two years ago are set to be fined for failing to appear at an inquest into the incident.

Coroner Patrick McGurgan had requested the PSNI to attempt to find the four men and two women on Tuesday, the first day of the inquest into the death of William Desmond Gallagher-Mee (45) of Blenheim Drive, Newtownards.

But by 2pm yesterday, officers had been unable to locate them across Newtownards, Comber or Bangor.

Mr McGurgan indicated that unless they turn up by this morning, he will direct that they be fined.

The six missing witnesses include three people arrested on suspicion of murder at the time.

Apartment owner John McDowell, Robyn McClean and Darren McGimpsey were questioned for two days, but were never charged in relation to Mr Mee's death.

The incident was declared non-suspicious in August 2016 following a significant police investigation, and the three named previously were no longer treated as suspects because it was no longer deemed a crime.

A fourth witness, Jason Hull, was also considered a suspect at one stage, but he was also never charged and is no longer a suspect.

Mr Hull, along with two other witnesses, Mark Bruce and Ashleigh Miller, have failed to attend the inquest.

Mr McGurgan said that Mr McDowell and Ms McClean had been in touch, but he did not accept the reasons they gave for non-attendance, adding they will face "the same sanction as the rest".

Mr Mee died on July 26, 2016 after plunging an estimated nine metres from the third floor of the Millers House apartment complex on Regent Street in Newtownards.

On Tuesday, the inquest heard Mr Mee's long-term partner Donna Johnston insist that she does not believe he jumped because he had a fear of heights, and was not suicidal at that time.

But Detective Inspector Darren McCartney said on the evidence he had, he stood over his decision that the death could no longer be treated as suspicious.

Yesterday afternoon, the inquest heard statements made by Mr Hull, Mr Bruce and Ms Miller read out in their absence.

Mr Hull's statement recalled him being inside the apartment when Mr Mee arrived, and detailed how Mr Mee had suddenly pushed open the window, climbed out on to the ledge and jumped.

"He was only in the flat for five minutes, I was really shocked," he said in the statement.

He added that he and Mr McGimpsey had shouted "no" when Mr Mee climbed out the window.

"It was crazy, he just jumped, I don't understand," he said.

"There was no fight, no one touched him, he just jumped."

Mr Bruce's statement recalled how he and his partner Ms Miller were in their flat when they saw a man falling.

Ms Miller's statement records her hearing shouting and then a "whoosh" noise, opening the blinds and seeing a man fall.

She described the position of the falling man as "kind of like falling sideways", adding he "looked like a lifeless body".

Earlier yesterday, paramedic Stuart Parkhall, who attended the scene, gave evidence saying that the bulk of Mr Mee's injuries were to his arms, head and face, indicating he had fallen head first.

It has also emerged that the PSNI did not attend the scene immediately.

Constable Samuel Eccles told the inquest he was tasked to attend the scene at 9.17pm, around an hour and a half after Mr Mee had fallen at around 7.50pm.

He spoke to the residents of apartment 25, but did not enter the premises until his sergeant arrived, saying he did not want to risk contaminating a potential crime scene.

Mr McGurgan will deliver his findings this afternoon.

Belfast Telegraph

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