Northern Ireland news

Man accused of east Belfast Reece Leeman murder claims he acted in self defence

Reece Leeman died from stab wounds after collapsing at Connsbrook Drive in east Belfast

AN AUTISTIC man charged with a murder claims he was threatened by knife-wielding intruders demanding drugs and money, a court has heard.

David Matchett is accused of killing 21-year-old Reece Leeman, who died from stab wounds after collapsing at Connsbrook Drive in east Belfast early on Friday morning.

But Mr Matchett (28) alleges he acted in self-defence following a struggle at his home on nearby Kyle Street.

A judge was also told how the defendant knew the deceased and remained at the scene until police arrived.

Appearing before Belfast magistrates' court alongside a registered intermediary, Matchett spoke only to confirm he understood single charge of murder.

A detective inspector opposed bail by claiming he posed an "unmanageable" risk of harm to himself and the public.

She said that while in custody he made comments about killing himself and admitted being a regular cannabis user.

"Police believe controlled drugs played an important part in the offence," the detective added.

Defence solicitor Hugh Edgar said Mr Matchett gave an account of two men forcing their way into his home while he was in bed and demanding cannabis and money.

"He makes the case that he was threatened with a knife that was brandished at him," the lawyer submitted.

"He grabbed the blade of the knife as it swiped across his face, just missing him."

Mr Matchett sustained lacerations to his hand during the encounter, according to his solicitor.

The detective confirmed that one of the alleged intruders has been questioned about a suspected aggravated burglary at the Kyle Street address, but says he denies they came to the house with any knife.

Mr Edgar told the court his client was the victim of the break-in by two men wearing hoods and scarves.

"He's a vulnerable young man in his own house at 1am and this trouble comes to him," he said.

"There's an altercation after which both men leave the house, and when Mr Matchett realises the gravity of the situation, because one of the two men has fallen by that stage, he rings police and stays at the scene."

The accused has also shown remorse over what happened, the court was told.

"Mr Matchett expressed his condolences because, as it turned out, he knew the deceased," his solicitor added.

"This is a tragic case and no-one is more aware of that than my client."

Police also disclosed that a knife was discovered in a wheelie bin behind Mr Matchett's house, which the defence disputes was an attempt to conceal the alleged murder weapon.

District Judge Oonagh Mullan heard the accused changed out of pyjama bottoms into trousers because he knew he was going to be taken to a PSNI station.

Granting bail under strict conditions, she cited the "rather unusual" circumstances where Mr Matchett phoned police and then alleged cooperated.

She ordered that he is not to be released from custody until a passport is surrendered and a £750 cash surety is lodged today.

Mr Matchett is due back in court in two weeks time.

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