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File sent to PPS over death of Belfast DJ, inquest told

Gerard ‘DJ Macko’ McMahon died in September 2016, hours after being detained by police.

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Ella McMahon (left) with Mary McCallan from Relatives For Justice (Rebecca Black/PA)

Ella McMahon (left) with Mary McCallan from Relatives For Justice (Rebecca Black/PA)

Ella McMahon (left) with Mary McCallan from Relatives For Justice (Rebecca Black/PA)

A file has been sent to the Public Prosecution Service following the death of a Belfast DJ in the city three years ago, an inquest has heard.

Gerard McMahon, 36, who worked under the name DJ Macko, died in hospital on September 8, 2016, hours after being detained by police who responded to what was described at the time as a “violent incident” in Great Victoria Street.

The Police Ombudsman’s Office (PONI) launched an investigation after saying it “appeared that CS spray was used”.

The first preliminary hearing into Mr McMahon’s death at Belfast Coroner’s Court on Monday heard PONI had sent a file to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) in October 2018.

Coroner Joe McCrisken told the hearing he had met PONI investigators twice since Mr McMahon’s death for updates.

“I’d found that a file put together by the Police Ombudsman had forwarded to the Public Prosecution Service in October of last year, I then received a letter from the senior public prosecutor indicating that she received the file in May of this year – eight months then between sending the file and senior prosecutors getting the file and attempting to make a decision,” he said.

I have a duty to progress the inquest as soon as possible so that evidence isn't lost and so memories don't fadeCoroner Joe McCrisken

“No decision has been taken yet, and as I have indicated to the Public Prosecution Service, I am just not prepared to wait and have things delayed any longer.

“I have a duty to progress the inquest as soon as possible so that evidence isn’t lost and so memories don’t fade.”

Counsel for the PONI told the coroner that the PPS contacted their offices in August asking for further information which would require police to be reinterviewed.

The coroner was told that the PONI investigators are advancing that matter and had been in correspondence with solicitors instructed on behalf of police in the hope that police would attend for interview.

Counsel added that the police solicitor has failed to respond and it may well be the case that the PONI would have to utilise their full range of powers in order to bring the matter to some kind of conclusion.

The coroner was told the PPS is “concerned” that an inquest would proceed ahead of their decision on whether to prosecute.

Mr McCrisken said the PPS has had “more than enough time”.

Padraig O Muirigh, acting for the McMahon family, said the delays were of “great concern to the family”, calling it “unacceptable”.

“We are dealing with a very narrow list of police officers involved here, I don’t understand how that could delay this inquest,” he said.

He was my rock, when I needed him he was there, I still need him and he's not there any more. It's a big hole that no-one could ever fillElla McMahon

Mr McCrisken added: “I haven’t received an official request yet from the Public Prosecution Service to adjourn the holding of this inquest, if one is received I will give it due consideration but as things stand, I am moving forward to inquest.

“My view is that we should move forward and hear this inquest for everyone’s benefit.”

The inquest has been scheduled to proceed from February 17-21, 2020.

The next review hearing is set for November 26.

Speaking outside court, Mr McMahon’s mother Ella said her son Gerard had been “her rock”.

“Gerard was just an every day guy, everybody loved him, he was a Belfast DJ, he loved life, it’s heartbreaking what happened to Gerard, there is such a big void with his family, he’s had two new nephews that he’s never got the chance to see,” she said.

“I know we’ll never get him back again, but we have to see a justice for him, I can hear him in my ear echoing, ‘don’t let this go’.

“He was my rock, when I needed him he was there, I still need him and he’s not there any more. It’s a big hole that no-one could ever fill.”

PA