Northern Ireland news

Relatives of Co Down man who died in Newry house fire in court as man (43) denies murder

The defendant appeared at Belfast Crown Court via a videolink with prison

RELATIVES of a Co Down man who died in a house fire in Newry attended court yesterday where a 43-year old denied his murder.

Andrew James Thompson's remains were found in his fire-damaged bungalow at Park View in the Cloughhoge area of the city in May 2021.

Also found at the property was Gary Anthony Paul Magee, who was initially taken to hospital and subsequently charged with murdering his 62-year old drinking partner on a date between May 20 and May 23, 2021.

Magee, with an address at Maghaberry, appeared at Belfast Crown Court via a videolink with the prison.

When the murder charge was put to Magee, he replied "not guilty."

He also denied a charge of arson endangering life on May 21, 2021, namely damaging by fire Mr Thompson's Park View home.

Mr Justice O'Hara commented: "Mr Magee accepts that he was drinking in Mr Thompson's house but says he is not aware of what happened at the critical time".

This was confirmed by defence barrister Grey Berry KC, who said defence reports including one from a psychiatrist were being sought.

Gavan Duffy KC, for the Crown, said "the sooner we receive any of those reports, then the faster we can respond" and said it was anticipated a trial will last up to three weeks.

Acknowledging "there is work to be done before the trial can proceed", Mr Justice O'Hara said he would review the case on February 17 next year when it is hoped a date for the trial to take place "between Easter and the summer" will be fixed.

Northern Ireland news