Two men appear in court charged with Ryan Macrae murder
Two Portaferry men, already charged with attacking a man in the town, were back in court on Thursday charged with his murder.
Standing side by side in the dock at Newtownards Magistrates Court, 28-year-old Robert Kiernan and Jordan Donnelly (19) were jointly charged with the murder of Ryan Macrae on 14 October this year.
It’s the second time that Kiernan, from Portaferry but now with an address on the Princetown Road in Bangor, and Donnelly, from Arlington Park in the harbour town, have appeared in court on charges arising from their alleged attack.
Last Monday, the pair were originally charged with causing grievous bodily harm to 32-year-old Mr Macrae with intent but he succumbed to his injuries and passed away in hospital on Tuesday evening.
A labourer and guitar player from Killyleagh, Mr Macrae was allegedly attacked in the Church Street area just before 1am on Sunday, October 14.
Last Monday, the court heard how he sustained serious injuries during the assault outside the Fiddler's Green in Portaferry when he allegedly had his head smacked against a brick wall after being kicked and punched in the altercation which was captured on CCTV.
Despite police objections, Kiernan and Donnelly were freed on bail only to be re-arrested following their alleged victim’s tragic death.
In court on Thursday, Detective Sergeant Kenny testified that he could connect the men to the offence, adding that police were objecting to bail amid fears that now they are facing a murder charge, Kiernan and Donnelly were a flight risk.
He claimed it was a “very strong police case, a very straight forward case” against the alleged killers, revealing that not only was the entire incident captured on “very clear CCTV” but that the defendants had “made admissions” during police interviews.
DS Kenny told District Judge Mark Hamill the assault was “basically one blow to the head which made the injured party fall directly to the ground banging his head".
“That was followed up by stomping type, two stomps to the injured party’s head as he lay on the ground, followed up by the defendant grabbing him and banging his head on the ground.”
After the detective described the incident as a “fairly serious, vicious assault,” the judge warned: “People who stamp on people’s head while they’re on the ground definitely go to prison.”
The judge asked what had changed since Monday when his colleague District Judge Amanda Brady had granted bail and the officer agreed it was Mr Macrae’s “tragic death” which had changed the complication of the case.
He said as well as police fearing the pair might flee, “tensions in this area are quite high” so he was seeking a remand into custody “for their own personal security.”
The officer confirmed to the judge that no appeal of Judge Brady’s decision had been lodged but added that had it been himself dealing with the case at that stage, “I would have appealed it.”
Defence counsel for Donnelly, Chris Holmes, said while the police claim they have a strong case, “there are definitely issues” which will have to be tried eventually including Mr Macrae “being the aggressor on two or three occasions.”
He submitted that in contrast to police fears that Donnelly would flee, he had “taken himself to the door of Musgrave Street [station]” when he heard of Mr Macrae’s death, “knowing that they would be looking for him.”
Conor Holmes, acting for married father-of-two Kiernan, made similar submissions, revealing that his client was “absolutely distraught at this man’s passing.”
“This is not a clear cut case,” declared the lawyer.
Conjuring to his conclusions, Judge Hamill said he did not see any increased risk of flight and that apart from the fact “that this poor man is dead, the other fundamentals (of the case) are the same.”
“Judge Brady made a decision and he prosecution did not appeal,” said the judge adding that for him to remand them into custody would mean second guessing her reasons.
“I’m declining to second guess Judge Brady,” he told the Court.
Among the bail conditions, Donnelly and Kiernan are barred from alcohol, licensed premises, must adhere to a curfew and wear a tag.
They’re due back in court on 16 November.
Belfast Telegraph Digital