Killer refuses to take stand at delivery driver's inquest
A man convicted of the murder of south Belfast man Stephen Carson has refused to appear at the inquest into the killing of a delivery pizza driver.
Prisoner Michael Smith had been listed to appear yesterday at the third day of inquest hearings at Belfast's Laganside Courthouse examining the unsolved murder of Kieran McManus (26).
The father-of-one, from west Belfast, was shot outside a Domino's pizza takeaway at the DC Enterprise Centre, Kennedy Way, on March 30, 2013.
His murder has been linked to a long-running feud which started in 2010 and culminated in the murder of Mr Carson three years ago.
Coroner Patrick McGurgan was told that Smith had been brought to the courthouse, but did not consent to give evidence at the hearing.
The inquest had previously heard that one possible motive explored by police was that Mr McManus's killing was linked to a sword attack on Smith, who was convicted of Mr Carson's murder in 2018.
Explaining the development, the coroner's barrister Philip Henry said Smith - who has never been charged in connection to Mr McManus's murder - could not be legally forced to appear in the witness box.
"Mr Michael Smith had been given the opportunity to give evidence... and had been added to the witness list, but under the rules he cannot be compelled (to appear)," he said.
The inquest heard that Smith had been asked 30 minutes prior to the start of the hearing if he wanted to appear as a witness but had expressed that he didn't "wish to give evidence".
In response, the coroner said there was no need for prison staff to visit Smith in the courthouse's cells in order for the request to be made again.
Neil Fox, a solicitor representing the McManus family, told Mr MrGurgan that they had been "fully appraised of the situation" and were content in the circumstances for the inquest to continue in Smith's absence.
"They are content with the evidence brought before the court in any event," he added.
The coroner said he acknowledged the development would be "deeply frustrating" for Mr McManus's loved ones.
He also explained that if Smith had agreed to appear he would have been obliged under law to inform him that as a witness at an inquest he is not required to answer any question that may incriminate himself.
Mr McGurgan also paid tribute to Mr McManus's mother Sally and relatives - who were present at all of the hearings - for the "dignity" they had shown during the proceedings.
"I do recognise how difficult (this has been) for the family. Kieran lost his life in such a tragic, violent way," he said.
During previous inquest hearings it emerged Mr McManus fell to the ground close to his vehicle after being hit twice in the back by a masked gunman, who - according to witnesses - uttered the words "All right, Kieran" before opening fire.
The inquest had also learned the Domino's worker, who had relocated to Crumlin due to threats, had expressed concern that his life had been threatened in the run up to his killing.
Mr McGurgan will deliver his findings next Tuesday.