Belfast Telegraph

Murder accused: One granted bail, one refused

By Paul Higgins

Two teenagers accused of the murder of Christopher Meli have applied for bail, one successfully while the other was refused.

Deputy District Judge Peter Magill granted bail to a 16-year-old boy who cannot be named because of his age, but refused to release 18-year-old Lee Smyth amid fears that he would reoffend.

Smyth, from Colinbrook Gardens in west Belfast, and the teenager are jointly charged with Stephen McCann (18) from Bearnagh Glen, also in Belfast, with the murder of Mr Meli.

McCann was not in court yesterday. The body of the 20-year-old, father-of-one was discovered on a pathway in the Glasvey Close area of Twinbrook after he had been beaten to death and detectives believe up to 20 people were involved in a number of violent incidents that ended in the murder in the early hours of December 12.

At court yesterday Smyth appeared first on videolink, from the Young Offenders Centre and heard Detective Sergeant McCreedy describe how a "large disturbance" led to the tragic death.

Smyth, he told the court, handed himself in to police voluntarily later that day and during police interviews, he admitted "being involved in an altercation with the deceased" whom he confessed to "punching a number of times" but when charged with the killing told officers: "I didn't murder Christopher Meli."

DS McCreedy said police were objecting to Smyth being freed as despite having a limited criminal record, "he has a propensity, we would say, to engage in violent and anti-social behaviour" and police also feared he would "interfere with witnesses in this ongoing investigation".

The officer revealed that with ongoing "tensions" in west Belfast, Smyth "had been served with a threat in relation to that".

Defence solicitor Mark Austin said his client "categorically denies the offence".

Judge Magill remanded Smyth back into custody to appear again on January 18 via videolink.

The 16-year-old boy then appeared via videolink from the Juvenile Justice Centre. DS McCreedy said while the boy initially "made admissions that he had punched the deceased a number of times," he added that during later interviews the teenager retracted those admissions "saying that he didn't assault Christopher Meli in any way and that he had made up his admissions thinking he would be helping other people out".

The detective told the court that despite those claims, "there are witnesses identifying the defendant as assaulting Mr Meli at the scene".

Having been charged with the murder, the 16-year-old declared: "I didn't injure, assault or murder Christopher Meli."

Addressing the teenager directly, Judge Magill told him he was releasing him on his own bail of £500 with his mother to stand surety in the sum of £750. The judge also ordered the 16-year-old to report to police twice a week, observe a curfew, reside at the undisclosed bail address and barred him from contacting his co-accused, witnesses and those who have been arrested and released on police bail.

He is also due back before the court on January 18.

Belfast Telegraph


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