Belfast Telegraph

Man accused of murdering 'Good Samaritan' neighbour pleads not guilty

James Gerard Hughes Credit: The Hughes family
James Gerard Hughes Credit: The Hughes family

By John Cassidy

A west Belfast man is to stand trial later this year accused of murdering his 'Good Samaritan' neighbour.

James Brendan Patrick Devine (43), formerly of Divis Tower, appeared at Belfast Crown Court on Friday to be formally arraigned on two charges.

He pleaded not guilty to murdering James Hughes in his flat at Divis Tower on a date unknown between November 4-7, 2016.

Devine also denied a second charge of stealing £6,080 from Mr Hughes between the same dates.

The body of the 62-year-old murder victim was discovered in his 14th floor flat at Divis Tower in November 2016.

Following a police search, officers investigating his death learned that over £6,000 in cash was missing from his flat.

Defence counsel Greg Berry QC today told Mr Justice Colton that two psychiatric reports indicated that Devine had been "suffering from chronic paranoid schizophrenia since 2006''.

He added: "Mr Devine does not take issue with the fact that he caused the death of Mr Hughes.

"The issue now is about his mental capacity at the time.''

James Hughes

Mr Berry told the court the issue around Devine's fitness to plead had now been resolved.

"Nobody has really trodden the issue around diminished responsibility and we have put that in motion and a report will be completed within four weeks by Dr Maria O'Kane.''

However, Mr Justice Colton said given that Dr O'Kane had already written a previous report on the defendant's fitness to plead, "I will require her report more quickly than that. I direct that report be completed within two weeks.''

Prosecution lawyer Philip Henry said he would direct a forensic psychiatrist instructed on behalf of the Crown, Dr Christine Kennedy, to start work immediately on her report on the issue of diminished responsibility.

Mr Justice Colton set the trial date for Monday, June 18 this year. The trial is expected to last a week.

The judge remanded Devine back into custody to a psychiatric unit at Knockbrack Healthcare Clinic in south Belfast.

Mr Hughes had lived most of his life in London where he was the manager of a psychiatric nursing home before returning to Belfast.

A priest at Mr Hughes' funeral described him as a “generous man’’ who gave people gifts “with thought and meaning’’.

In one incident in London, Mr Hughes saved a man’s life after he had fallen under a train, severing part of his arm.

Said Fr Martin Graham: “Without a second thought, James jumped on to the track, put a tourniquet on the wound to stem the flow of blood and accompanied the man to the hospital.

“No-one knew a thing about this until his flatmate answered a knock at the door one night. It was a man with a bravery certificate for James.

“Like the Good Samaritan, James was passing by and immediately went to that man’s aid.’’

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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