Belfast Telegraph

Murder accused 'told police to shoot him'

By Michael Donnelly

A Lurgan man who denies the cutthroat murder of his fiancee wanted police to shoot him, his trial has heard.

David Lyness (52) is accused of "slicing" open the throat of his 51-year-old girlfriend Anita Downey in front of his son during a drunken argument in the early hours of January 20 last year.

His Craigavon Crown Court trial, sitting in Belfast, has already heard that Ms Downey was found lying in the living room of Lyness' Toberhewny Hall home, her throat cut back to her spine, severing her jugular.

Lying beside her with his arm draped over her, as if in bed together, was Lyness.

A police sergeant who took charge of those tasked to Lyness' home following a distraught 999 call by his son, told how Lyness, in a slurred voice from behind the living room door, claimed he was on the phone to his girlfriend.

The sergeant - who said he had drawn his handgun and ordered other officers to arm themselves with either pepper spray or batons - was then told by Lyness that his girlfriend "Anita" was dead and that "she had done what he could not do".

Lyness, the sergeant claimed, then became angry and began swearing, and that "he wanted me, the police, to come in and shoot him".

The sergeant said, as he waited for colleagues from the armed response unit (ARU), he kept a tight grip on the door handle in case Lyness "made an attempt to commit suicide by being shot". An officer with him told the court that he too "heard some voice... 'Come in and shoot me'".

Other officers claimed "the male on the other side of the door was shouting loudly, 'She's dead' ... and he wanted to die and wanted police to shoot him ... he said he wanted us to shoot him".

The sergeant in charge of the ARU, and others in his unit, also reported that their suspect said "he was going to come out and he wanted police to shoot him".

Earlier yesterday the jury of seven men and five women, heard a recording of the frantic 999 call made by Lyness' distraught son, as he fled the scene in fear of his dad.

In the recording, the clearly distressed and sobbing teen could just be made out telling an operator that "my dad has just sliced his girlfriend's throat".

At times the operator, who handed the call over to a colleague, was heard asking the teen to "take a wee deep breath", as they had difficulty in making him out.

During those short bursts of composure, during which arrangements were made for police to meet up with him, he kept repeating: "My dad just slit his girlfriend's throat."

"Your dad slit his girlfriend's throat?" one operator asked the teen.

"Yes, yes, with a knife," he replied.

One of the police who came to the teen's rescue told how he "panicked" on believing that officers were going to return him to his father's house.

The teen, she said, was "very visibly shaken".

"He was very concerned about being brought back to the house," she said.

"He said: 'Please don't take me back, he has a knife'."

The officer said that later the teenager said that his father was already drunk when his girlfriend arrived in a taxi, and his dad put some music on.

However, having drunk three bottles of wine between them, they began arguing and "Anita flew at David" and began slapping him.

They argued over an engagement ring, which Lyness wanted returned, and which Ms Downey put in her handbag.

They then fought over the bag, before Lyness went and armed himself with a knife. And then after cutting open her throat, he told him: "It had to be done son, and that's it... that's it, I'm going to have to kill myself."

Asked what the teenager may have meant by that, the officer replied that he "thought his dad was trying to justify what he'd done".

At hearing.

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