Five guilty of the 'almighty beating' of ex-UVF terrorist carried out in Co Antrim pub
Five men will be sentenced next week for their roles in an "almighty beating" of former UVF man Darren Moore.
Belfast Crown Court heard yesterday that such was the ferocity of the attack that a baseball bat used to repeatedly bludgeon Moore as he lay 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 had provided his Honda Civic car for the assault, while Gibson held a pub door open as it 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 to 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 6pm.
"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 the bar as Moore sat at a table drinking with two others.
The prosecutor said around seven men then entered the bar and "took an active part in the assault", with three men remaining in the foyer. Moore (48), who played for Crusaders FC, was first hit on the head with a hammer by a man in a blue hooded jacket, felling him.
"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 got involved and was a "central player in the assault, who can be seen delivering approximately a dozen strikes with a baseball bat".
CCTV showed Campbell picking up a glass and throwing it at Moore before striking him on the back of the head with a bar stool.
The court was told Rush was seen on the footage "marshalling 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 could be seen on CCTV with the broken baseball bat in his right hand and "stabs down at Mr Moore with this weapon as a blonde-haired lady tries to keep him at bay with the bar stool".
The court heard Campbell struck Moore on the ankle with a bar stool as Rush was seen trying to get at Moore, but was 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. A CT scan showed a "depressed skull fracture, multiple rib fractures and several fractures to the thoracic spinal process".
Wylie later told police he was "acting under duress". Defence counsel Paddy Lyttle QC told the court Wylie had a "£5,000 drug debt" and carried out the attack fearing if he didn't he would get a serious beating.
Mr Steer said: "This was a group attack by a total of 10 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."
Cahoon's defence counsel Eilis McDermott QC said he realised after handing over his car that it was going to be used to "give someone a hiding" and had expressed his "regret and remorse".
Gavan Duffy QC, for former soldier Rush, denied any loyalist paramilitary involvement.
The court heard Rush, who has PTSD 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 was on licence from prison.
Gibson's defence QC Brian McCartney said the defendant had "shown victim empathy" in a pre-sentence report.
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 organisation. He accepted the defendant "struck (Mr Moore) on the foot or ankle" during the attack.
Judge Marrinan described the assault on Moore as an "almighty beating... a punishment if that is what you want to call it".
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.