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John Mongan murder: lawyer attacks widow's evidence

9 December 09 16:22 GMT

The evidence from a woman who saw her husband hacked to death is "toxic" and filled with "fatal weaknesses", a defence lawyer has told a court.

The lawyer is defending 34-year-old Christopher Stokes from Great James Street in Londonderry.

Mr Stokes, along with Edward Gabriel Stokes, 38, of Cornshell Fields, also Derry and a 16-year-old boy, denies murdering John Mongan in Fenruary 2008.

The father-of-three was attacked in the bedroom of his west Belfast home.

The three are also charged with causing criminal damage to Mr Mongan's jeep and Edward Stokes is further charged with wounding Mrs Mongan with intent.

At the start of the trial last October, Mr Mongan's wife Julia, who was heavily pregnant at the time of the murder, told the jury how a gang of four men smashed their way into the family home on Fallswater Street and killed her 30-year-old husband with an axe and a sword.

On Wednesday, defence lawyer Philip Magee said there was no issue that Mr Mongan was "murdered in a most dreadful fashion", but said there was a question over how Mrs Mongan could identify the accused as the attackers.

"At the end of the day if Julia Mongan saw these people from point blank range and saw their faces, you would be perfectly entitled to convict," he told the jury.

"If she did not see their faces, you must acquit."

During the prosecution evidence Mrs Mongan claimed she recognised the voices of Christopher Stokes and the teenager before seeing the defendants' "grinning" faces as they battered her husband but police who gave evidence said that at the scene, she told them the men had been wearing balaclavas.

The jury also heard evidence from neighbours who testified that the men they saw leaving the house and attacking the jeep had been wearing balaclavas.

Mr Magee said the evidence about the men wearing masks was "simply overwhelming", telling the jury that if they were masked, there's "no identification in this case".

Phone tracked

Turning to evidence of Christopher Stokes' mobile phone being tracked from Derry to west Belfast at the time of the killing and from there to Kesh where a burnt out Isuzu trooper said to have been used by the murderous gang was found, Mr Magee said that had been used as "supportive evidence" by the Crown.

He added supporting evidence "can only support something if there's something there to support but her (Julia Mongan) evidence is not supportable - it's simply too dangerous".

He also said the mobile phone could have been used by other people.

On Thursday the jury will hear defence speeches from other lawyers in the case.

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