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Pair jailed for fatal attack on Co Down musician Ryan Macrae

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Ryan Macrae

Ryan Macrae

Ryan Macrae

Two Co Down men were jailed on Friday for a fatal attack outside a pub in Portaferry which claimed the life of musician Ryan Macrae.

The deceased, who was 32 and from Killyleagh, died nine days after he was punched and kicked outside the Fiddler's Green bar in Portaferry in October 2018.

The two men who carried out the fatal attack - Jordan Donnelly (21) from Ardminnan Road in Portaferry and 30-year old father-of-two Robert Kiernan from Princetown Road in Bangor - were sentenced at Belfast Crown Court by Mr Justice O'Hara.

Donnelly, who has a clear criminal record, was handed an eight year sentence while co-accused Kiernan - described by the Judge as being a "persistently aggravating character" on the evening of the fatal incident - was handed a nine-year sentence.

Both men appeared via a videolink with Maghaberry, and were each informed that their sentences will be divided equally between custody and licence.

As he sentenced the pair, Mr Justice O'Hara spoke of the impact Mr Macrae's death has had on his parents Gordon and June, and his sister Rebecca.

Mr Macrae was attacked in the early hours of Sunday October 14, 2018 and was rushed to the Ulster Hospital. He sustained a fractured skull and multiple brain injuries and was transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital, where he passed away on Tuesday October 23.

Mr Justice O'Hara said that after viewing CCTV footage from both inside and outside the bar, it was clear all three men were drunk.

Saying there was "no history of acrimony" between the pair and Mr Macrae, the Judge said the footage showed several interactions between Kiernan and the deceased in the smoking area, while Donnelly stood with his back to them talking to a female.

Mr Justice O'Hara said that whilst some of the interaction between Mr Macrae and Kiernan seemed friendly, Kiernan "appears to have said something which, not for the first time, riled Mr Macrae".

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Jordan Donnelly. Pictured By: Arthur Allison.

Jordan Donnelly. Pictured By: Arthur Allison.

Jordan Donnelly. Pictured By: Arthur Allison.

At this point, Mr Macrae grabbed Kiernan by the face and pushed him away, before walking back into the bar.

As a result of being pushed, Kiernan staggered back. He then interrupted Donnelly's conversation with the female, and following a short conversation between the two men went into the bar, where a scuffle between Mr Macrae and Donnelly then broke out.

The proprietor asked Donnelly and Kiernan to leave and CCTV showed the pair standing outside the bar for a short period before making their way up Church Street .

Minutes after the pair were thrown out, Mr Macrae also left the bar. Mr Justice O'Hara said CCTV footage from outside the pub "suggests Mr Macrae saw Donnelly and Kiernan a short distance away and is seen striding off in their direction".

The Judge said Mr Macrae went out of camera range briefly but "re-appeared walking backwards and it becomes clear very quickly he is retreating from Donnelly and Kiernan, who also re-appear in the footage".

In a fatal altercation outside the bar which lasted less than ten seconds, Mr Macrae threw a punch at Kiernan which missed, and Donnelly reacted by punching Mr Macrae in the face which caused him to fall back and hit his head firstly off a wall then on the ground.

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Robert Kiernan. Pictured By: Arthur Allison.

Robert Kiernan. Pictured By: Arthur Allison.

Robert Kiernan. Pictured By: Arthur Allison.

As Mr Macrae lay motionless on the ground, Kiernan stamped on Mr Macrae's head twice - then Donnelly lifted Mr Macrae's upper body off the ground by the jacket before throwing him back on the ground with force.

In the immediate aftermath, both men tried to rouse Mr Macrae - but they failed to call an ambulance

Donnelly and Kiernan were initially arrested on Sunday October 14 on suspicion of assaulting Mr Macrae, and when he died they were re-interviewed.

Both men said that on the evening in question they had too much to drink. The pair also denied a charge of murder, but later pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Mr Justice O'Hara spoke of the "awful effect this has has" on the Macrae family "both individually and collectively."

His parents described a kind son with an "infectious laugh and smile" who had many friends and whose death "has left a void that will not and cannot be filled".

Mrs Macrae had been visiting her daughter Rebecca and three-month old grandson in New Zealand when she received word from home of what had happened to her son.

In a statement from Rebecca to Donnelly and Kiernan, she said: "I don't believe you woke up that Saturday morning and set about your day in the knowledge that that night you were going to end someone's life - but you did. You did do that.

"My brother is no longer here as a direct result of your violent actions.

"I had to travel half-way across the world with my three-month old son to see my brother's lifeless, cold body lying in a coffin. The first time my father saw his grandson was in the lead-up to his own son's funeral.

Telling her brother's killers "violence is never the answer", Rebecca added: "I can only hope that you are sorry for what you did and will have a positive impact on your lives going forward - because unlike my bother, you still have a life to live."

As he sentenced Kiernan to nine years and Donnelly to eight, Mr Justice O'Hara said he considered the worst aggravating factor to be the "double stamp on the head" administered by Kiernan.

Belfast Telegraph


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