Belfast Telegraph

Man accused of killing his friend at drink-fuelled party in Lurgan house denied bail

By Paul Higgins

A 37-year-old man has appeared in court accused of killing his friend at a drink-fuelled party in Lurgan.

Appearing in the dock of Lisburn Magistrates Court yesterday, John McComb confirmed that he understood the single charge against him.

McComb, originally from the Lurgan area but with a proposed bail address at Ardnaskea Park in Coalisland, is accused of the manslaughter of Paul Gerard Curran on March 9 this year.

The body of the 29-year-old was discovered when paramedics were called to Manor Drive in Lurgan on Thursday afternoon.

In court, a detective sergeant said she believed she could connect McComb to the offence, adding that police were objecting to him being freed on bail amid fears that he would reoffend, interfere with witnesses and the investigation, or abscond.

The court heard that while it is the police case that Mr Curran died as a result of a brain injury sustained when McComb allegedly punched him in the head before changing his bloodied clothing having fled the scene, defence solicitor Gabriel Ingram contended there was doubt over how the injury was caused. He revealed that Mr Curran had been assaulted the day before and had been so intoxicated he was "falling about the place" and could have injured himself in a different way.

The detective maintained, however, that state pathologist, Professor Jack Crane, had given a preliminary verbal finding that Mr Curran would have died a short time after the injury was sustained.

Outlining what police enquiries had revealed so far, the officer described how emergency services were alerted by an intoxicated female.

Police arrived at the house 40 minutes after the initial call to the ambulance service where they found Mr Curran lying on his back on the living room floor.

There were also nine "heavily intoxicated persons" who were sent on their way after their details were taken and images recorded using officers' body cameras once a crime scene was established.

The detective told the court witnesses had given statements that "there was an altercation, sparring that became heated, between the deceased and Mr McComb", who had left the house after paramedics arrived.

He was arrested in a car a short time later but the detective said that from CCTV footage it was evident that McComb had changed his clothing, adding that despite extensive enquiries, searches and eight police interviews, McComb's clothing has yet to be recovered.

She claimed the police evidence was that a short time after McComb allegedly punched him in the head, Mr Curran "went into a state of unconsciousness and passed away".

During his police interviews, McComb did eventually acknowledge he had changed his clothes. While he also admitted punching Mr Curran to the head, Mr Ingram suggested during cross- examination that the friends had in fact been "play-fighting".

Mr Ingram suggested to the police officer that despite police claims that he had punched the victim, "there were no fresh injuries" on McComb's knuckles. He further suggested that while police had taken accounts from those at the party, they were all "intoxicated whether through drink or drugs or both", but the officer said toxicology reports had not been received.

The detective rejected Mr Ingram's suggestion that another man had assaulted Mr Curran, repeatedly telling the solicitor "there are no other suspects".

He revealed that Mr Curran had been the victim of an assault the day before, which was also being investigated by police. However, the detective maintained that, according to Professor Crane, death would have resulted a short time after the brain injury was sustained.

Declaring that "the matter is emphatically denied", Mr Ingram set out the defence case that having had a "play-fight" with Mr Curran, McComb left the property but returned to find his friend in a distressed state so tried CPR, the only person in the house to do so, and then left again after he was dead. He further revealed that the defence "will be seeking a second autopsy report" to establish the exact time and cause of Mr Curran's death.

Refusing to grant bail and remanding McComb into custody to appear at Craigavon Magistrates Court via video link on March 31, District Judge Rosie Watters said that on the basis of his "absolutely atrocious record", she was concerned about him further offending as well as having fears of witness interference and of him fleeing.

Belfast Telegraph


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