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Man denies murdering the sister of his ex, and trying to shoot her dead too

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Phelim McNally with Brenda O’Neill

Phelim McNally with Brenda O’Neill

Phelim McNally with Brenda O’Neill

A man has denied murdering a woman and trying to kill her sister, his former partner, in a gun attack.

Phelim McNally entered not guilty pleas yesterday to the murder of Lauren O'Neill and the attempted murder of her sister Brenda

McNally, from Station Park in Toomebridge, is the former partner of 22-year-old Brenda O'Neill, with whom he has two children.

Lauren (19) was shot and killed in the gun attack in the village of Bellaghy on May 19, 2012.

Brenda was seriously injured.

The two young children – aged three years and 10 months at the time of the attack – were present during the shooting.

It is alleged 27-year-old McNally entered a house at William Court before opening fired.

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It has been claimed that Lauren was killed as she tried to protect her big sister, who managed to make it to a neighbour's home to raise the alarm over the attack.

Yesterday, both prosecution and defence lawyers said that there will be further medical and engineer reports sought before the trial, due to start in late September and which is expected to last a month.

McNally, who appeared in the dock of Londonderry Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, was remanded back into custody in the meantime.

Lauren and Brenda were both past pupils of St Mary's College in Clady, near Portglenone.

The sisters worked in McNally's Inn and Restaurant on the main Belfast to Derry Road, three miles from Bellaghy.

Brenda lost five to six inches of her bowel after surgery for injuries she sustained in the gun attack.

After the attack, Bellaghy parish priest Father Andrew Dolan spoke of the closeness between the two sisters, who were best friends as well.

"This has affected four generations of a family which is very established in this area and the entire community is in shock," Fr Dolan said.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was among those who paid tribute to Lauren after her death.

He spoke of how the O'Neill family were "deeply shocked and traumatised".


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