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Jury in one-punch case outside nightclub fails to reach verdict

Finbar McCoy. Picture by Pacemaker

THE jury at the trial of a man who died after he was punched outside a Co Antrim nightclub failed to reach a verdict in the case, a court heard today.

Finbar McCoy jnr (28), from Tamlaghduff Road, Bellaghy, Co Derry was accused of the unlawful killing of James McDonagh.

Mr McDonagh (28) from Castledawson, Co Derry, died in hospital from the injuries he sustained outside the Elk Bar in Toomebridge in January last year.

McCoy jr has always admitted throwing the single punch which struck Mr McDonagh, but has maintained he is innocent of his unlawful killing.

He was released on continuing bail while a decision is made on whether or not he is to face a retrial in the new year on manslaughter charges.

Earlier the jury of six men, following over five hours deliberation over two days, reported that not only were they hung on reaching a unanimous verdict, there was no prospect of even a majority of at least ten of them agreeing on his guilt or innocence.

James McDongh. Picture by Alan Lewis - PhotopressBelfast.co.uk

After the jury foreman told the judge, Mrs Justice Keegan that they were "hopelessly divided", she said she had no other option, but to thank them for their deliberations and discharge them.

The jury during the week long trial heard that Mr McCoy had been in the Elk bar with his family celebrating his father's retirement. Events before the end of "the fateful evening" were described as fine and that the "craic was good".

Mr McDonagh and his nephew, who were known to staff as regulars, were also in the bar. As the evening came to a close around 2am there was a confrontation in the car park.

Mr McCoy jr, who had left earlier, had to be restrained after getting a friend to drive him back to the car park. There he found that his parents had been injured.

Mr McDonagh was stripped to the waist "shouting and roaring... laughing, egging" people on, the court was told. Mr McCoy jr, said he "panicked" and was "fearful for his family" and managed to break free from those holding him.

He said that in his "rage" he ran over and punched Mr McDonagh, also claiming he threw the punch as a "scare tactic" and that immediately afterwards he punched "a fence in his temper".

Although Mr McCoy snr and others put an unconscious Mr McDonagh in "the recovery position" and despite advice from those present that he should be taken to hospital, he was driven to his mother's home.

She said her son was lying on the sofa, making a snoring noise, but she could not awaken him.

Later her daughter called for an ambulance, and staff found Mr McDonagh to be "totally unresponsive".

A post mortem later revealed that Mr McDonagh died from bleeding and swelling of the brain after a punch caused him to fall backwards and his head hit off the pavement, fracturing his skull.

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