Page last updated at 16:01 GMT, Tuesday, 9 June 2009 17:01 UK

Murder pleas 'had to be dropped'


Tom and Ben Cowles from Norwich have admitted the manslaughter of Frank McGarahan

Two brothers convicted of killing a bank chief expected to face a murder trial until their court case started.

However, almost a day of legal wrangling altered that, with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) admitting manslaughter would be easier to prove.

In response Tom and Ben Cowles, who killed Frank McGarahan during a street row in Norwich, changed their plea.

A CPS lawyer said new evidence that came to light close to the trial date forced them to drop the murder charge.

Frank Ferguson, who spoke after the Cowles entered their guilty pleas, defended the changes to the charges saying it would have been difficult to prove murderous intent.

CCTV footage

Mr Ferguson, Crown Prosecutor for Norwich, said the issue lawyers had to address was the degree of harm the Cowles had intended to cause to Mr McGarahan.

Mr McGarahan, an executive at Barclays Wealth, died after he had "bravely" intervened when he saw a group of youths attacking a man of "down-and-out appearance".

But to prove he was a victim of murder prosecutors had to convince a jury his attackers had intended to kill or cause him grievous bodily harm.

CCTV footage showed one brother punching Mr McGarahan to the head, apparently without warning, and the other repeatedly punching while holding the banker in a head lock.

However, prosecutors concluded there was not enough evidence to convince a jury that the Cowles intended to inflict fatal injuries.

'Judge agreed'

Mr McGarahan, his brother Kevin and cousin Sean Ryan had tried to approach the gang in a conciliatory fashion, but the situation quickly turned violent.

"The issue we had to consider was what degree of harm the defendants intended to cause Frank McGarahan during the incident," said Mr Ferguson.

"After a careful review of the evidence, including further expert medical evidence we had recently obtained, we concluded that accepting the guilty pleas to manslaughter was the right decision in this case.

"The judge said in court that he agreed with this decision."

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Brothers admit banker's killing
09 Jun 09 |  Norfolk

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