Belfast Telegraph

Trio to face court two years after Christopher Meli killing

By Paul Higgins

Three men accused of killing a young father in west Belfast will have their cases returned to the Crown Court almost two years since the murder, a court has heard.

The trio are jointly accused of the murder of Christopher Meli on December 12, 2015.

They are 20-year-old Stephen McCann, from Bernagh Glen; Caolan Laverty (18), from Broom Park, and Lee Smyth (18), from Colinbrook Gardens, all in Belfast.

A preliminary inquiry - the legal process necessary to refer a case to the more senior Crown Court - was due to be held at Lisburn Magistrates Court yesterday.

However, it was adjourned until December 4 - eight days before the second anniversary of the murder.

The body of 20-year-old father-of-one Mr Meli was discovered on a pathway in the Glasvey Close area of Twinbrook after he had been beaten to death.

Detectives believe up to 20 people were involved in a number of violent incidents that culminated in the murder on grassland known as Doc's Lane in the early hours of Saturday, December 12.

Last July when McCann had bail conditions varied, the court heard that the Public Prosecution Service is considering charging eight more people with offences arising from the killing, although it was not specified what the charges would be.

Smyth appeared via videolink in court yesterday, although his two co-accused were excused from attending.

A prosecuting lawyer asked for the preliminary inquiry to be adjourned as "there's a lot of outstanding material", but added that the files would be ready to be served by the end of the month.

Adjourning the case until December 4, District Judge Rosie Watters said she "didn't expect it to go ahead today as I know it's huge [the file], but it has been going on for a long time".

"I presume it's being treated as urgent," said the judge.

The PPS confirmed to the judge that it was.

Belfast Telegraph

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