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Man accused of murdering his 'Good Samaritan' neighbour in flat


Murder victim James Hughes was described as a Good Samaritan

Murder victim James Hughes was described as a Good Samaritan

Murder victim James Hughes was described as a Good Samaritan

A West Belfast man is to stand trial later this year accused of murdering his neighbour.

James Brendan Patrick Devine (43), formerly of Divis Tower, appeared at Belfast Crown Court yesterday 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 and 7, 2016.

He also denied stealing £6,080 from Mr Hughes between the same dates.

The body of the 62-year-old was discovered in his 14th floor flat in November 2016.

Defence counsel Greg Berry QC told Mr Justice Colton that two psychiatric reports indicated 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.''

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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," he said.

However, Mr Justice Colton said given that Dr O'Kane had written a previous report on the defendant's fitness to plead, he wanted the report completed within two weeks.

Prosecution lawyer Philip Henry said he would direct a forensic psychiatrist, 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. The trial is expected to last one 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 his 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.

Fr Martin Graham said: "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.

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

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