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Trial of teenager accused of killing pensioner halted

The trial of a youth accused of killing a pensioner has been aborted.

The 17-year-old, who cannot be identified because of his age, was on trial for the murder of Francis O’Neill.

The former psychiatric nurse, who was 78 and partially blind, was found dead at his home at Brook Valley in Omagh last April.

Mr O’Neill had been stabbed in the neck and strangled.

But yesterday, as the case entered its third week, a judge told the jury at Dungannon Crown Court that the trial would have to be stopped.

Mr Justice McLaughlin said he had taken the “difficult and regrettable decision” to discharge the jury for legal reasons.

“A legal problem has arisen which requires the trial to be terminated to allow further investigations to be carried out,” he said.

Further details of the delay cannot be reported for legal reasons.

Apologising to the jurors, Mr Justice McLaughlin said they would be exempt from jury service for 10 years.

The judge said the decision to abort the trial was “no-one’s fault” but had been taken “in the interests of justice”.

“None of us wants a miscarriage of justice,” he added.

The trial, which had been running from June 7, had been expected to hear closing submissions yesterday and today.

It was expected that the jury would begin deliberating on its verdict on Wednesday.

A new trial is not expected to be held until September or early October.

The court had previously heard prosecution claims that the youth, who was 16 at the time, killed Mr O’Neill because he needed money for rent.

Giving evidence last Thursday, the youth denied the murder charge, saying he had nothing to do with Mr O’Neill’s death.

He claimed to have found Mr O’Neill’s dead body after entering the pensioner’s home.

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