Family's fury as murder accused back walking the streets of Omagh
The family of a murdered woman say they are devastated and angry that the man accused of her killing has been released on bail to live in the town where she died and relatives still live.
Noel Knox (50), from Knockshee Park in Omagh, is accused of murdering 36-year-old Mairead McCallion in the town on a date between February 22 and 25 this year.
At a High Court bail hearing in Belfast yesterday, Knox, the murdered woman's partner, was released to an address in the area but was told that certain areas of the town, where he could encounter members of Ms McCallion's family, were "off limits".
The court was told that "tensions in the area remain high" over the murder.
A sister of the dead woman said that Knox being bailed to the same area where Mairead was murdered, and where her father and other siblings live, felt like "a slap in the face".
Helena Wilcox, who now lives in Australia, said she could not understand the court's decision.
"As a family we are devastated," she said
"It's bad enough he's been released on what is a very serious charge, but to be bailed to the same town where Mairead was murdered is a slap in the face.
"We can't understand why the judge would allow that, knowing family members live in Omagh.
"It's a slap in the face to our family – we are devastated that he's allowed to walk the streets of Omagh, where Mairead can no longer walk.
"We're mourning our sister while he is free to come and go.
"It's just unbelievable to think one of my family could be out and come face to face with him in a shop or something – I just don't understand how such a decision could be made."
A previous court hearing was told the 36-year old Omagh woman died in hospital of a head injury a day after police were called to a house at Castleview Court.
When officers arrived, Ms McCallion claimed her partner Knox had grabbed her by the hair, banged her head off a wall and thrown her into the garden.
Knox was arrested on suspicion of assault. Ms McCallion subsequently died in hospital the next day. He denies assaulting her.
The accused was granted bail in March, when stringent conditions were imposed, including a ban on entering Omagh, and that he had to live at a hostel in Armagh.
However, during the bail variation application held in the High Court yesterday it emerged that Knox surrendered himself to custody voluntarily after the hostel closed down in the middle of June, leading to a new application being made to release Knox on bail to a relative's address in Omagh.
This prompted Crown barrister Philip Henry to tell the court: "Tensions in the Omagh area are still running high regarding the family of the deceased.
"I have spoken with a police officer and asked if there was any change in that, and the situation is as it was before."
Mr Henry said the Crown was objecting to Knox moving back to Omagh because of these ongoing tensions and there were "concerns in respect of him returning to that area".
He did, however, ask that if bail was granted, Knox should make no attempt to contact any witnesses, including Ms McCallion's half-brother, who the prosecutor said "was drinking with the applicant (Knox) on the day in question, prior to this incident" and who claimed Knox was "intoxicated and agitated".
A defence barrister pointed out that the court had already deemed Knox a suitable candidate for bail, and that while endeavours have been made to house Knox in another hostel, this had "drawn a blank".
Saying there was little doubt there was "significant grief and upset and trauma" in respect of Ms McCallion's family, the barrister questioned the tensions in the town mentioned by the Crown.
He also told Mr Justice Maguire that when released on bail in March, Knox "complied steadfastly" with the conditions imposed.
After hearing the submissions, the judge granted Knox bail to live at the address in Omagh.