Two men were remanded in custody yesterday to be sentenced next month for the manslaughter of gifted musician Ryan Macrae.
Killyleagh man Mr Macrae (32) died nine days after being punched and kicked outside the Fiddler's Green bar in Portaferry.
Jordan Donnelly (21), from Ardminnan Road in the town, and father-of-two Robert Kiernan (30), from Princetown Road in Bangor, admitted the manslaughter of Mr Macrae.
He was attacked in the early hours of Sunday, October 14, 2018 and passed away in the Royal Victoria Hospital on October 23.
Both Donnelly and Kiernan sat in the dock of Belfast Crown Court in adherence with social distancing guidelines.
Mr Macrae's parents also attended the hearing and sat in the public gallery, as did relatives of the defendants.
CCTV footage that showed several incidents before the fatal attack was played to Mr Justice O'Hara, as was the incident itself.
Crown prosecutor David McDowell said the two accused had been drinking in a bar in Portaferry on the night of Saturday, October 13 before arriving at the Fiddler's Green in an intoxicated state.
CCTV taken from the smoking area showed Donnelly in the beer garden talking to a woman, while at the same time Kiernan was, according to the Crown, "behaving foolishly and annoying other people".
The footage showed Mr Macrae, who was also drunk, entering the beer garden with a friend. Pointing out that the two defendants barely knew Mr Macrae, Mr McDowell said Kiernan and Mr Macrae can clearly be seen talking to each other in the beer garden.
Although the CCTV footage was silent, Mr McDowell said that by watching the two men interact, it was clear there was "some discord between them".
Suggesting that at one point Kiernan was "antagonising" Mr Macrae and that Donnelly was "oblivious", as he was talking to a female, the prosecutor said the footage showed Mr Macrae grabbing Kiernan by the face and pushing him away before walking back into the bar.
As a result of being pushed, Kiernan staggered back. The footage then showed Kiernan interrupting Donnelly's conversation with the female, and following a short conversation, Donnelly went back into the bar, followed by Kiernan.
Donnelly approached Mr Macrae and was heard saying: "Did you push my mate?". A scuffle between Macrae and Donnelly then broke out and the proprietor asked Donnelly and Kiernan to leave.
Another camera outside the bar captured the pair, and Donnelly can be seen in an agitated state. Mr McDowell described his actions as "readying his hands and upper body for a fight".
CCTV showed the pair standing outside the bar before making their way up Church Street. But just minutes after the pair were thrown out, Mr Macrae also left the bar.
Footage played to the court showed Mr Macrae walking towards Donnelly and Kiernan. Mr Macrae can be seen throwing a punch, before he is punched squarely in the face by Donnelly.
This caused Mr Macrae's head to strike off a wall, and as he fell to the ground Donnelly threw a second punch. While on the ground, Kiernan stamped on Mr Macrae's head twice. Then Donnelly lifted Mr Macrae's upper body off the ground by the jacket before throwing him back on the ground.
As Mr Macrae lay unconscious, Donnelly and Kiernan once again started walking up Church Street, but less than a minute later they returned and started trying to rouse Mr Macrae.
They pair moved him onto his side, then sat him up against a wall, before once more walking away, then returning again. By this stage two men who came out of the pub saw Mr Macrae and came to his assistance.
Donnelly, who can be seen on the footage crossing himself then standing with his head in his hands, was heard saying: "Oh f***, he's dead and I'm going to go to prison." And: "I only hit him once. It was self-defence."
Donnelly and Kiernan left the scene and the emergency services were contacted. While Mr Macrae regained some consciousness on the way to hospital, he had severe swelling to the back of his head and vomited several times.
He was described in court as a "gifted musician with a keen interest in sports" who had trials with Glasgow Rangers at youth level.
Both defendants made the case that on the evening in question they had too much to drink. The pair also denied a charge of murder, but later pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
Donnelly admitted hitting Mr Macrae "a quare dig", issued an apology, and said he wished he could take it back. Kiernan said he had no recollection of kicking Mr Macrae as he lay on the ground, and that he wouldn't have done it sober.
Barristers for both men issued an apology to the Macrae family for the hurt and pain their actions have caused, adding the remorse they have expressed was genuine.
After listening to submissions from both the Crown and defence, Mr Justice O'Hara said he wanted to reflect on everything before imposing a sentence.
He will sentence the pair for the manslaughter of Mr Macrae on Friday, January 8.