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Pensioner’s killer accused of attack on trial witness

A 17-year-old youth who will be sentenced this week for killing Omagh pensioner Francis O’Neill has been returned to custody after being accused of attacking a witness who gave evidence at his original murder trial.

That trial in June was stopped for legal reasons just two days before it was due to end.

Mr O’Neill, a 78-year-old retired psychiatric nurse, was found strangled in his home at Brook Valley on April 11 last year.

The teenager, who cannot be named because of his age, dramatically pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter three weeks ago, on September 15, as the retrial was expected to begin.

He is now alleged to have attacked the murder trial witness, who is also a teenager, last Thursday. The youth was on bail under strict conditions to be sentenced for Mr O’Neill’s killing on Friday.

However, his bail was revoked last Thursday after he was charged at Strabane Magistrates Court with assaulting the teenager who gave evidence at his murder trial.

The youth was handcuffed as he was taken from the police car to the courthouse.

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He is now facing fresh charges of assaulting the other young male, threatening to harm a witness to a murder investigation and damaging his glasses.

The alleged incident occurred in the Strabane area. When asked if he understood the charges, he replied “yes”. He is also accused of breach of bail.

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