A man charged with the murder of John Paul McDonagh in Enniskillen “deeply regretted” his death, a court has heard.
Joseph Joyce, 29, of Coolcullen Meadow in Enniskillen, is facing three charges in connection with the death of the 18-year-old.
Mr McDonagh died in hospital on Monday after being stabbed in the area of Coolcullen Meadow on Saturday.
Joyce has been charged with murder, possession of an offensive weapon in a public place and wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm.
He said he understood the charges when they were put to him at a sitting of Strabane Magistrates’ Court in Dungannon on Thursday.
A PSNI officer confirmed in court that Joyce handed himself in for interview on Tuesday and provided a statement.
He also agreed that Joyce “deeply regretted” that Mr McDonagh had died, and that he had said he did not intend to kill him but that he had been attacked by three men.
“That’s what he said in his statement, yes,” the officer replied to the point put to him by Joyce’s defence lawyer.
Outlining the background, a prosecution lawyer said an altercation had started over garden fences.
“It escalated into three McDonagh males approaching Joe Joyce’s house brandishing weapons and the defendant coming out of his house with what is described as a sythe,” he told the court, adding that “all parties were described as attacking each other”.
“John Paul McDonagh was taken to hospital with an injury to his left leg… this was described as life threatening. His brother Gerard McDonagh, 36, was also brought to hospital with minor injuries but later discharged.”
The police officer said the PSNI “strongly opposed bail” for Mr Joyce, voicing fears he could abscond, threats to his life, potential interference with witnesses and reoffending.
“Tensions are running high in the area in relation to this incident, a number of threats have been made on Mr Joyce’s life, it is felt that Mr Joyce may fear for his own safety within this jurisdiction or even within the Republic of Ireland and that he may flee further afield,” he told the court.
“Mr Joyce has a propensity to violence, he has a criminal record for violent and threatening behaviour in the Republic of Ireland.
“There are numerous videos on social media where Mr Joyce was calling for members of the travelling community for fights, he is a bare knuckle boxer.”
The officer added: “From watching this incident on CCTV it was very clear it was only going to end in serious injury or death.
“There were occasions when I believe Mr Joyce could have fled the area… I believe he had made the choice to take the boys on.
“Mr Joyce does appear to goad the others on occasions by raising his arms in the air as though in a victory and one witness hears him shout ‘I am the boss, it is over’.”
A defence lawyer described Joyce as a devoted family man with three children, and another on the way.
“This a classic self-defence case, a very very tragic and unsavoury incident,” he said.
“The defendant was at home with his wife and children, and the deceased’s family, who lived at the back of his house slightly over, were in their garden for most of the afternoon drinking and having a party.
“He was aware of the McDonaghs’ shouting over his garden fence various insults and abuse and making threats to him.
“They then left their property, went round to get to his street, they were effectively armed with a 12-inch knife, a garden spade, a garden hoe as well possibly as a bottle of liquid which may be containing acid or ammonia or some other noxious substance.
“Mr Joyce said in his statement he was genuinely terrified and in fear of his life and also the lives of his family. He armed himself with whatever implement he could find… Mr Joyce has instructed he was acting in self defence.
“He’s a man who does have a past from the Republic of Ireland but the last five years he’s been well settled in Northern Ireland.”
The lawyer also told the court that a mediation group is currently working within the travelling community in the area to avert the possibility of a feud.
District Judge Eamonn King refused the application for bail.
“I am not satisfied that any conditions could be attached that would satisfy the court that this defendant is a candidate for bail, and consequently bail is refused,” he said.
“Whatever the truth is, it will be resolved in due course in a trial before a jury, and that will be some time away.”
The judge added: “Unfortunately the word feud has been mentioned in this hearing and I’m all too familiar with the implications of that word among members of the traveller community. I personally say it is a stain on the traveller community and I’m glad that a mediation group is already at work to terminate any future activity in connection with this unfortunate incident.”