Northern Ireland

Good Samaritan assault victim in coma

Accused has been bailed

Kieran Fox (second from left), son of Eamon Fox, is comforted during a press conference outside Belfast Crown Court by a family member as he gives reaction to James Smyth being found not guilty of the murders of his father Eamon Fox and Gary Convie in 1994
Laganside Court in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

A man who was repeatedly punched to the head in an unprovoked city centre assault is in an induced coma, a court has been heard.

A detective told Belfast Magistrates Court doctors opted to place him into the induced coma because they could not control his epileptic seizures which began a short time after the incident last Monday “and it’s hoped there is no permanent brain damage.”

Appearing in the dock charged with causing grievous bodily harm, 25-year-old Sean McArdle-Donaghy, of no fixed abode, spoke only to confirm that he understood the single charge against him.

A detective told the court that before doctors sedated the victim, he was able to tell his family what had happened.

The detective said that according to the victim, he had been at the cinema and was waiting for his bus home when a male was “being verbally abusive to an Asian male taking photographs” around Donegal Square West.

The victim intervened and the man “asked him if he wanted a fight” but although he said no, the man grabbed him in a headlock and he was “receiving uppercuts to the face” and ended up on the ground.

At one stage during the incident “the defendant asked him if he was a Catholic or a hun,” the officer said, adding that both men then got on the 3F bus.

As the bus went through east Belfast, the victim told the bus driver what had happened before he got off at the Ulster Hospital and the court heard while the driver has not yet made a formal statement, he told police he noticed the victim was unsteady on his feet “and had to use the railings” as he walked up to the hospital.

The victim had contacted his family from the hospital to tell them what had happened and he was able to give a description of his assailant before his condition deteriorated and he began to have seizures.

The defence argued the police did not sufficient evidence to connect McArdle-Donaghy to the offence, highlighting that CCTV footage is “grainy,” does not capture the incident.

Ordering McArdle-Donaghy to be freed on his own bail of £400 to live at an address approved by police, the judge adjourned the case to Thursday for a full review and told the detective that by then the police “will get a statement from the bus driver, have an ID procedure with the driver and serve that statement and CCTV” on the defence.