Belfast Telegraph

Man accused over hit-and-run death of Lesley-Anne McCarragher hands himself in

By Staff Reporter

A man accused of causing the death of an Armagh teenager made an unexpected appearance in court yesterday - almost three months after he was first due to appear before a judge.

Damien Paul McCann (30), of Monaghan Road, Armagh, is jointly charged with causing the death of Lesley-Anne McCarragher (19) by dangerous driving on April 9, 2016, as well as causing death while being an uninsured driver.

He walked into Armagh Courthouse yesterday and was immediately arrested and taken to the cells.

The case was not scheduled for mention and co-accused Nathan Finn (18), of Keady Road, Armagh, was not present, when a prosecution lawyer told the court McCann was in custody.

He was the subject of a European Arrest Warrant, which was in the process of being finalised by judicial counterparts in the Republic, but surrendered himself before this was completed.

Previous court hearings were told McCann was "actively evading police" and strenuous efforts were being made to locate him.

Yesterday, after five hours in the cells, McCann was brought to the dock wearing a black suit, a white shirt and a blue tie.

Flanked by prison staff, McCann stared straight ahead, glancing occasionally toward his wife and other family members seated in the public gallery.

Advising the court bail was strongly opposed, a police inspector said: "The defendant has been sought since July on matters of causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by driving without insurance.

"He actively evaded the service of summons.

"Police spoke to him by phone on July 21, 2017, but he refused to disclose his whereabouts. He was told to appear at court but failed. If released, we fear there is a risk of flight."

The inspector added when police were carrying out searches for McCann, officers called at his home in Keady, but his wife refused to state where he was. Other family members were spoken to, but they also failed to co-operate with enquiries on his location.

Defence counsel pointed out the arrest warrant was executed by arrangement and he was instructed to seek bail.

"It is my understanding Mr Finn is alleged to have struck the pedestrian after undertaking a vehicle," McCann's lawyer said.

"The evidence against my client is from one witness who claims to have seen a car perform an overtake a short time beforehand.

"My client was then seen overtaking another vehicle which sped up, causing him to have to speed up also. After the incident he remained at the scene, he voluntarily gave a statement to police and voluntarily attended for interview.

"He understood he was nothing more than a witness. Police released him with no bail conditions. There is a difference in these instances where the summons was unserved.

"It is accepted he buried his head in the sand, but he always believed Mr Finn was driving the car which struck the pedestrian and therefore it was Mr Finn's case. My client made a mistake.

"It would be highly unusual for a man who handed himself in to have bail opposed. I submit police will have difficulty in proving a case against Mr McCann."

District Judge Paul Copeland said: "That's an assertion I cannot adjudicate on and it has no influence at present. My concern is the positive evidence of evasion.

"There was also direct and indirect obstruction, not only by the defendant but by members of his family, in a bid to compromise the interests of justice. Warrants were issued for his arrest and extradition proceedings were being prepared."

The defence contended his client knew nothing of the warrants until he contacted his solicitor to arrange surrender to the court.

Pressing for a remand on bail, the defence said McCann runs his own contractor's business employing five staff, and his father and father-in-law own businesses in the area, and both are willing to supply cash sureties.

After some consideration, Mr Copeland ruled: "Given his defiance and evasiveness to date, the risk is too great. Bail is refused."

Both McCann and Finn are now to appear for a formal committal hearing to transfer the case for Crown Court trial later this month.

Belfast Telegraph

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