Belfast Telegraph

Mother of slain loyalist weeps in court as man (33) accused of his murder appears in the dock

Vera Johnston (centre) leaves court in Belfast with her friends and family
Vera Johnston (centre) leaves court in Belfast with her friends and family
Sonya Copeland (left) and Toni Johnston outside court
Ian Ogle
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

The mother of the loyalist community worker Ian Ogle broke down in tears as the man accused of murdering her son appeared in court yesterday.

Mr Ogle, a 45-year-old father-of-two, died after being stabbed and beaten in the street near his Cluan Place home in east Belfast two weeks ago.

Margaret Ogle, who was sitting in the middle of the front row of a packed public gallery, was comforted by a friend as she sobbed into a tissue throughout the two-minute hearing.

Jonathan Brown (33), from McArthur Court in east Belfast, appeared in the dock of Court 10 in handcuffs, dressed in a long-sleeved grey T-Shirt and grey tracksuit bottoms.

He acknowledged that he understood the single charge of murder against him and he looked around the courtroom and towards the public gallery, where the Ogle family and their supporters were sitting.

Brown’s lawyer Mark Austin told the court, sitting before District Judge Paul Conway, that his client “denies planning, preparing and committing this offence” on Sunday, January 27.

No application for bail was made and Brown, who was arrested at Heathrow Airport on Thursday and brought back to Northern Ireland, was remanded in custody.

He is due to next appear in court via video-link on March 8.

The victim’s widow Vera, son Ryan and daughter Toni Johnston were seated in the front row of the public gallery, along with Ulster Unionist councillor Sonia Copeland, a family friend.

Those wanting to attend the proceedings were warned by officials that there would be no further admittance to the courtroom once all the seats in the public area were taken.

There was a heavy police presence at Belfast Magistrates Court, both before and after the brief hearing, which began shortly after 10.30am, although Court 10 was full at least 15 minutes earlier.

Brown was the 14th person to be arrested in connection with Mr Ogle’s killing, but the only person to be charged.

Speaking outside court, the victim’s daughter said her family are still “numb” following her father’s death.

“We’re looking for justice,” the 27-year-old told the Belfast Telegraph. “We know we’ve still got a long way to go, but it was a good start today.” She described the local community’s support as “amazing” and called for cool heads to prevail.

The legal secretary added: “We can’t thank everyone enough. Their support is enough. We just ask for everyone to stay calm.” Ms Johnston, who spoke out after her father’s death to ask people to go to the police with information, was flanked by Mrs Copeland, who held her arm as they left court shortly after noon.

Mrs Copeland told the media that the Ogle family had had a “harrowing” experience. “It’s still a live investigation and hopefully more arrests will come later,” she said.

“There are others who have been involved and we’re hoping that they’re dealt with through the courts very quickly as well.

“I would ask on behalf of the family that anyone with information, no matter how small, if you could please come forward and contact the police and at least let this family grieve as best they can afterwards. It has been a harrowing time for them and they have a long way to go yet.”

Mr Ogle was stabbed 11 times near his Cluan Place home. He was attacked by a gang of at least five men and died of his horrific injuries at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital.

Detectives have made 14 arrests and carried out multiple searches over his death. The other 13 people who were arrested have since been released.

The murder sparked outrage in the community and thousands turned out for a vigil and the funeral.

Depite police saying they were investigating a UVF link, the terror group has distanced itself from the murder.

“Whoever did it did not do it in the name of loyalism or the UVF,” it said in a statement.

“Actions of this sort undermine the positive transformation which is taking place with the organisation and we distance ourselves from the appalling act on a popular member of our local community.”

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