Page last updated at 14:55 GMT, Friday, 5 June 2009 15:55 UK

Five 'threatened' in murder case

Forensic team at the scene
Mr McDaid was attacked close to his home by a loyalist mob

Five witnesses are under threat after the mob murder of youth worker Kevin McDaid, the High Court has been told.

The details were disclosed as one of the men accused of 49-year-old Catholic's murder applied for bail.

Christopher McDowell, 33, of Glebe Avenue, Coleraine, is among nine people charged in connection with the attack on Mr McDaid and another man on 24 May.

Mr Justice Treacy adjourned the application to study police interviews with the accused.

He was told that up to 30 people left a pub to go on a sectarian rampage through a part of Coleraine, County Londonderry, where the victim lived.

It was claimed the crowd launched an orchestrated assault on the Heights area because Irish flags had been erected.

Crown counsel told the court of attempts defuse tensions in the town on the day of the killing, which came after Rangers beat Celtic to claim the Scottish Premier League title.

Support for the two Glasgow football teams, known as the Old Firm, has traditionally divided along religious lines in Northern Ireland.


A substantial number of people, the Crown say between 20-30, took it upon themselves to descend upon these Catholic people - the attack itself appears to be orchestrated

Mr Justice Treacy

Most Rangers supporters are Protestants while Celtic fans are predominantly Catholic, and the rivalry between the teams has often been mirrored in sectarian violence following big games.

She said community liaison efforts were made before a crowd left a bar and headed for the Heights.

It was claimed at least one of them was wielding a weapon - possibly a baton or stick.

Witness statements alleged there were chants of "UDA" as the attack was being carried out.

The barrister confirmed that since the murder two witnesses have received police warnings that their lives are in danger.

A further three have also claimed to have received direct threats telling them to leave the Coleraine area, she said.

The defence disputed the murder charge against Mr McDowell, pointing out that a heart attack appeared to have caused Mr McDaid's death.

He told the court his client was prepared to live at an address in a nearby town under virtual house arrest conditions.

The lawyer also claimed that any threats issued by others should not be a reason for stopping the accused getting bail.

But Mr Justice Treacy told him those prepared to intimidate or frighten witnesses were "acting in the interests of those who have been charged".

"From the way in which the case was opened by the Crown it appears this was an orchestrated attack on a small, geographically limited Catholic enclave in Coleraine by people who earlier in the day... seemed to be fairly intent at some stage in moving towards this Catholic area," he said.

"Negotiations between them and police had taken place and, I'm told, the matter had been sorted.

"Notwithstanding that, a substantial number of people, the Crown say between 20-30, took it upon themselves to descend upon these Catholic people. The attack itself appears to be orchestrated."



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