Man cleared of killing bouncer by pushing him down stairwell
Three young children wept in the public gallery of a court yesterday as the man accused of killing their father at a Christmas party was unanimously acquitted by a jury.
Colin McLeister (48) died after tumbling down a flight of stairs as he was helping another doorman escort a drunken man from an entertainment complex in the seaside town of Portrush.
After Muredach Martin Doherty was cleared of manslaughter at Antrim courthouse, the 36-year-old from Hawthorn Crescent in Dunloy offered his sympathies to Mr McLeister's distraught family.
Doherty had claimed that the doorman's death was a tragic accident which occurred as he "misfooted" and stumbled into Mr McLeister.
The prosecution had argued that a drunken Doherty deliberately pushed the doorman to his death at the Playhouse Entertainment Complex in December 2011.
Judge Desmond Marrinan had heard that a drunken Doherty was initially shown the door by the boss of the complex, who had been holding a party for his doormen.
The boss had left Doherty at the top of the stairs, as the drunk man had appeared to have accepted that his night was over.
But Doherty turned and was walking back into the nightclub when stopped by a doorman, Billy Oliver, who was soon joined by Mr McLeister.
Together they began to march Doherty back down the stairs. Again Doherty appeared to be compliant, and "everything was going to go off peacefully... with no pushing or shoving".
However, at some point Mr McLeister ended up in front of Doherty, and the tragic accident occurred.
In evidence, Mr Oliver said in "a bolt out of the blue" Doherty pushed his friend with both hands, before both tumbled down the stairs.
However, under cross-examination, Mr Oliver conceded that Doherty may have stumbled and pushed into Mr McLeister.
When he was initially interviewed by police Doherty claimed that he could not remember events, and that he had been grabbed by the neck by two men who were rough with him beforehand.
"But definitely I never pushed anybody or anything like that," he told police.
He also told officers that "there is no reason why I could think of to make me want to push anybody".
In seven of his interviews, Doherty denied pushing Mr McLeister, telling police: "It wasn't me... I never pushed this guy".
However, when told of Mr Oliver's evidence, he said: "They were marching me down the stairs and whenever I was going down the stairs I misfooted, and I just put my hands out to save myself and I just went tumbling down the stairs, and the big lad went with me... pure accident."