Belfast Telegraph

Traveller 'hacked man to death in front of pregnant wife on 15th birthday'

By Paul Higgins

Traveller accused of involvement in hacking a man to death in front of his heavily pregnant wife is alleged to have done it on his 15th birthday.

Belfast Crown Court yesterday heard details of police interviews carried out with Martin Stokes after he was arrested in connection with the death of 30-year-old John Mongan.

Mr Mongan was killed in front of his wife Julia and seven-year-old daughter in their home in Fallswater Street in west Belfast on February 7, 2008.

Stokes (19) from Glendale in Londonderry, denies murdering Mr Mongan and causing criminal damage to his vehicle.

It is the Crown case that due to ‘bad blood’ Stokes was among three people who forced their way into the house armed with bladed weapons — possibly a hatchet, a machete and a sword — with which they attacked the victim.

Mrs Mongan was due to give birth to the couple’s third child the following day. She has told the jury she recognised the voice of Stokes, her cousin.

Yesterday, the jury heard a transcript of Stokes’ first interview with police during which his date of birth was given as February 7, 1993.

Detective Constable Lamont told the court that, in total, the teenager was questioned seven times over three days in the presence of his solicitor and an appropriate adult in view of his age at the time.

The jury heard that during the first interview, Stokes initially told police that on the night of the murder he was staying with his sister and had fallen asleep on the sofa between 11pm and midnight.

However, when asked specifically if anyone could vouch for his presence there, he replied “no comment”, a stance he was to maintain in response to the majority of the questions officers put to him.

Having explained to Stokes the importance of being able to ascertain where he was, detectives put to him that “somewhere between the time you say you fell asleep, at 11 or 12, there's one hell of a brutal murder taking place in Belfast and we think you were involved in that”.

“No comment,” Stokes told them.

DC Lamont told prosecuting lawyer Gary McCrudden that throughout the remaining interviews, Stokes refused to answer questions about police trying to establish his movements, alleged involvement in murder, or family me- mbers. The trial continues.

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