Belfast Telegraph

Five face sentencing for 'almighty beating' of former UVF man Darren Moore

By John Cassidy

Five Co Antrim men will be sentenced next week over their roles in carrying out an "almighty beating'' on former UVF man Darren Moore.

Belfast Crown Court heard on Friday that such was the ferocity of the attack that a baseball bat used to repeatedly bludgeon Moore while lying prone on the ground broke in two.

Judge Desmond Marrinan remanded Aaron Norman Cahoon, David Rush, David John Gibson, Joshua Wylie and Robert Campbell into custody over the attack which he described as a "very serious case''.

Cahoon (28), of Cherrymount in Newtownabbey and Gibson (45), of Milewater Drive, New Mossley, pleaded guilty to a single charge of aiding and abetting grievous bodily harm.

The court heard Cahoon pleaded to the charge as he had provided his Honda Civic car for the assault while Gibson held a door open in a pub while the attack took place.

Rush (36), of Ballyvessey Green, Newtownabbey, Wylie (20), of Galgorm Road, Ballymena and Campbell (33) of Clareville Avenue, Ballyclare, all pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm on Darren Moore, a former Irish League footballer, on March 15, 2017.

Prosecution barrister Robin Steer told the court: "This was a planned attack by an armed group involving 10 males on Darren Moore at McConnell's bar in Doagh around 6 pm.

"The attack was co-ordinated, with members of the group arriving in the area at the same time, some by vehicle.

"Three members of the group - Joshua Wylie, David Rush and Robert Campbell - carried out an initial reconnaissance to confirm if the injured party was in the bar before the whole group arrived en masse.

"A number of weapons were produced - a claw hammer, a baseball bat and a bar.

"After the incident, the group rapidly dispersed and some of the group switched vehicles shortly afterwards in an attempt to evade detection.''

A group of 10 people were captured on CCTV walking into premises where Darren Moore was sitting at a table drinking with two others.

The prosecutor said around seven males then entered the bar and "took an active part in the assault'' with three males remaining in the foyer.

Moore (48), who played for Crusaders Football Club, was first attacked by a man in a blue hooded jacket with a claw hammer to the head, felling him to the ground.

"A second male in a dark hooded jacket, also not before the court, strikes Mr Moore with what appears to be a bar while he is lying prone on the ground.''

Mr Steer said Wylie also got involved and was a "central player in the assault who can be seen delivering approximately a dozen strikes with a baseball bat''.

"He continually beats Mr Moore with the baseball bat whilst he is lying prone on the ground until the baseball bat breaks.''

CCTV footage showed Campbell picking up glass and throwing it at Moore before lifting a bar stool and striking Moore on the back of the head.

The court was told Rush was seen on the footage "marshaling people back and then forward again'', a claim disputed by his defence counsel.

After initially leaving the bar, the group returned to attack Moore, said Mr Steer, and Wylie is seen with the broken baseball bat in his right hand and "stabs down at Mr Moore with this weapon as a blonde-haired lady trying to keep him at bay with the bar stool.''

Campbell, the court heard, picked up a short bar stool and struck Moore to the ankle while Rush was seen trying to get at Moore but were held back by another person.

"Mr Rush then leaves holding a broken baseball bat handle in his hand. Finally, Robert Campbell strikes Mr Moore with the bar stool again. At the end of the incident all run out of the bar.''

The prosecutor said Moore was taken to Antrim Area Hospital where he was treated for lacerations to his head, behind his ear, the back of the head, right shoulder and abdomen.

Judge Marrinan heard a CT scan showed that he suffered a "depressed skull fracture, multiple rib fractures and several fractures to the thoracic spinal process''.

Following the attack, Mr Steer said police visited the bar and recovered the broken baseball bat. Police identified Campbell from bar CCTV footage.

An hour later police recovered Cahoon's Honda Civic in Newtownabbey and found a claw hammer in the rear passenger footwell. Blood on it matched Moore's DNA, the court heard.

The prosecution lawyer said police later stopped an Audi car in Glengormley and Cahoon was arrested and the key to his Civic was found in the boot of the Audi.

Campbell was arrested in Antrim Area Hospital the following day and Rush was apprehended the same day at his home.

Gibson was arrested at Belfast Magistrates' Court two days after the assault and Wylie was detained the following month.

During police interview, Wylie claimed he was "acting under duress''. He alleged that he was approached by a man and "told to carry out this attack and was given a baseball bat and that he was in fear of his life''.

The court heard from his defence counsel Paddy Lyttle QC that Wylie had owed a "£5,000 drug debt'' and carried out the attack fearing if he didn't he would get another serious beating after being assaulted months earlier.

Mr Steer said there were a number of aggravating factors in the case. "This was a group attack by a total of ten persons who were either involved with loyalist paramilitaries in the Newtownabbey area or were acting under their direction or control .

"The motivation was a revenge attack on a person who was involved in loyalist paramilitary activity and had fallen out with the group.''

He said the level of violence meted out to Moore was "gratuitous''and the attack took place in a public bar which had left patrons "visibly upset''.

Cahoon's defence counsel Eilis McDermott QC said he realised after handing over his car that it was going to used to "give someone a hiding'' and has now expressed his "regret and remorse'' for his role.

Gavan Duffy QC for former soldier Rush disputed the prosecution case that there was any loyalist paramilitary involvement in the attack and no evidence on the Crown papers to support the assertion.

The court heard Rush, who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder after tours in Northern Ireland, Kuwait and Iraq, had a previous conviction for kidnapping and assault occasioning actual bodily harm and at the time of the attack on Moore he was on licence from prison.

Gibson’s defence QC Brian McCartney said the defendant had “shown victim empathy” in a pre-sentence report.

Explaining how Gibson got involved in the attack, Mr McCartney told the judge: “He was going to the shop and he was persuaded to go along. He was a door holder.”

Ciaran Mallon QC said there was "no question'' of Campbell being involved in any paramilitary organsation. He accepted the defendant "struck (Moore) on the foot or ankle'' during the attack.

Judge Marrinan said described the assault on Moore as "almighty beating....a punishment if that is what you want to call it,'' adding that "quite a large group went out to take on one man''.

As Rush, Gibson and Wylie were already on prison remand, Judge Marrinan revoked the bail of Cahoon and Campbell telling them he would sentence them on Monday, December 16.

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