Page last updated at 01:50 GMT, Thursday, 22 May 2008 02:50 UK

Accused 'seen killing McCartney'

Robert McCartney
Robert McCartney was beaten and stabbed to death three years ago

A woman driving in Belfast city centre saw Robert McCartney being attacked and identified the killer, a court is told.

Mr McCartney, 33, was beaten and stabbed to death outside a bar on 30 January 2005 in an incident which soon became prominent worldwide.

Sinn Fein has always denied IRA members took part in the killing but his sisters claimed the Provisionals were intimidating witnesses.

Terence Davison, 51, of Stanfield Place, Belfast, denies murder.

Some of Mr McCartney's sisters were in the public gallery at Belfast Crown Court as Gordon Kerr QC opened the case for the prosecution.

He said the woman, "Witness C", saw Mr Davison delivering the fatal stab wound then kicking Mr McCartney in the head.

"The prosecution say that the evidence taken as a whole would entitle the court to draw the proper inference that Davison was seen by Witness C violently attacking and killing Mr McCartney," he added.

Nobody deserves this
Words attributed to Robert McCartney

He said evidence would show that, after initially taking part in an attack on Mr McCartney along with a number of other men, Mr Davison pursued the injured and bleeding man down another street before stabbing him in the abdomen.

Worldwide headlines

Mr McCartney's friend Brendan Devine suffered a serious neck injury during the incident, which occurred after a fight in the bar - allegedly over an insult made to Mr Davison's partner - spilled outside.

The court was also told Mr McCartney turned to his friend while he was being assaulted and said: "Nobody deserves this."


Vincent Kearney reports on what witness C claims to have seen

Mr Davison is also accused of affray as are James McCormick, 39, and Joseph Gerard Emmanuel Fitzpatrick, 47.

Mr Fitzpatrick is further charged with an assault on another of Mr Cartney's friends.

The murder of Mr McCartney created headlines around the world, with the Provisional IRA accused of involvement.

It came during a period which was seen as a pivotal time in the Northern Ireland peace process.

Sinn Fein has always denied IRA members took part in the killing or attempted to prevent witnesses coming forward.

Following his death, Mr McCartney's sisters embarked on a high-profile campaign for justice which took them as far as the White House in Washington.

Objection by defence

They were in court for the opening day of the proceedings.

Prior to the start of the trial, defence barrister Orlando Pownall QC made an application on behalf of Mr Davison.

He said it was unfair that the judge, who is hearing the case without a jury, was being asked to try the defendant for the same crime based on two different versions of events - namely that he had murdered Mr McCartney on his own or that he was part of a group of people that had murdered Mr McCartney at a different location.

Mr Pownall said it was unprecedented for an accused individual to have to defend himself on what he referred to as being two discrete and mutually exclusive scenarios.

But Mr Justice Gillen rejected the application, stating that both alleged incidents were interlinked and part of the same unfolding chain of events that led to the death of Mr McCartney.

The trial continues.

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