Belfast Telegraph

Drill did not penetrate victim's skull during alleged homophobic attack, court told

The accused was arrested while shouting INLA slogans

By Alan Erwin

A drill allegedly used in a suspected homophobic attack on a woman did not penetrate her skull, the High Court was told.

Prosecutors revealed mother-of-one Brenda McLaughlin (38) suffered cuts to the skin around her head but no fractures during the assault on a street in Strabane, Co Tyrone.

It was also claimed that a 17-year-old youth accused of inflicting the injuries last Saturday was discovered nearby shouting INLA slogans.

New details emerged as the defendant, who cannot be named because of his age, was refused bail.

He is charged with causing grievous bodily harm with intent, possessing an offensive weapon in public, and theft of the drill from a nightclub.

Police flagged down on Railway Street just after 2am on May 5 found the 38-year-old woman lying on the ground with a head wound and lapsing in and out of consciousness.

Crown lawyer Conor Maguire said she provided her name, telling officers she believed the attack was motivated by her homosexuality.

Another woman tending to her claimed to have witnessed the incident and named the accused as being the assailant.

She alleged the teenager had used a power drill against the victim's head after waving it in front of her face.

Although the suspected weapon was later recovered there is no evidence that a drill bit had been attached to it.

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The 17-year-old youth who appeared at Omagh Magistrates Court charged in connection with the drill attack

The victim was taken to hospital amid initial fears that her skull had been penetrated.

Ms McLaughlin's condition had initially been treated as life-threatening before it was confirmed that no brain injury had been inflicted.

Providing an update, Mr Maguire said: "The skin around the skull was cut in the attack, but the skull itself was neither penetrated nor fractured.

"Doctors have also referred to extensive bruising the injured party had around the skull area."

Ms McLaughlin also told medical staff she believed the incident was fuelled by hate due to her sexuality, the court heard.

"She said she heard the buzzing of the drill just prior to the attack and thereafter she said she felt her head twist as though caught in the workings of the drill," the prosecutor added.

It was disclosed that her alleged attacker was arrested came to the attention of officers at the scene.

"He was close by shouting INLA slogans in the direction of police," Mr Maguire said.

Investigations established he had been at a nightclub in the town earlier that night, allegedly stealing a drill from part of the premises undergoing refurbishments.

The court was told CCTV recordings show him apparently drunk and in "high spirits".

Mr Maguire contended: "At times in the footage he can been seen playing with the drill as though it was a gun.

"On one occasion he is seen tucking it down into the front of his trousers."

During police interviews the teenager denied the offences or being homophobic, but said he had no memory of events that night due to his level of intoxication.

Defence counsel argued that the confirmed injuries to the woman supported the position that no drill bit was attached during the alleged attack.

"It's not as grave an enterprise as was originally alleged against (the accused)," he said.

Referring to any suspected homophobic motivation, the barrister said his client would not have known the woman's sexuality.

"This young man has gay friends," he added.

Refusing bail, however, Sir Malachy Higgins backed prosecution submissions that it was necessary to keep the teenager in custody to ensure the public's protection.

The judge said: "This was an unprovoked attack on an innocent 38-year-old lady at 2am in a public place."

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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