A Craigavon man found guilty by a jury of attacking another man in his own flat and leaving him to die continues to deny murder, a court has heard.
Mark Ward was convicted by a jury of murdering Marcell ‘Junior’ Seeley, who was found dead by his sister in the living room of his flat in the Taghnevan estate in Lurgan two years ago.
Despite the conviction, Belfast Crown Court was told by Ward’s barrister on Tuesday that the 25-year-old defendant “continues to deny it”.
Ward, from Drumellan Gardens in the Moyraverty area of Craigavon, was handed a life sentence in June after he was convicted of murdering Mr Seeley, 34, and was due to be handed a tariff on Tuesday.
However, after being asked to consider further submissions ahead of passing sentence from both the Crown and defence, trial judge Mr Justice Treacy said he will determine next week how long Ward will spend in prison.
Prior to adjourning sentencing for a week, Mr Justice Treacy was told by Crown prosecutor David McDowell QC that Mr Seeley’s death has had a “significant impact” on his family.
The victim died of blunt force trauma to the head after he was attacked in his Dingwell Park flat some time on the morning of Sunday October 11, 2015. His remains were discovered two days later by his sister.
Branding the attack against Mr Seeley as “severe”, Mr McDowell said it was the Crown’s case that following the violence, Ward did not assist or get help for the injured man, but rather left him in his flat.
Pointing out that Mr Seeley and Ward knew each other and had drunk together prior to the fatal beating, Mr McDowell described the victim as “vulnerable” due to his level of intoxication.
Telling the court the injured man was “in a state of reduced consciousness for a time ... and survived for a number of hours after the injuries were inflicted”, the prosecuting barrister said the wounds indicated “a degree of violence was used”.
Mr McDowell said the injuries – which included one of Mr Seeley’s ears being partially ripped from his head – were consistent with being kicked or stamped on, adding: “The only weapon used in this case was that of a shod foot.”
The prosecutor also said blood splatters in Mr Seeley’s living room indicated the attack against Mr Seeley continued – even after the injured man was “bleeding significantly”.
This, Mr McDowell said, was consistent with Ward asking Mr Seeley’s neighbour and friend on the morning of the murder “if there is blood coming from someone’s ear, does that make him dead?”.
Charles MacCreanor QC, representing Ward, spoke of his client’s low IQ and told the court Ward was assessed as having a “borderline mental handicap”.
Regarding the offence itself, Ward has never given an account of what occurred either to police following his arrest, or during the trial held earlier this year.
However, the jury heard Ward claim that on the evening of Saturday/Sunday October 10/11, he was in Mr Seeley’s flat with two other people, that during a drunken incident there was a scuffle, that Mr Seeley hit him so he hit him back then he left the flat.
Telling the court Ward continues to deny murdering Mr Seeley, Mr MacCreanor said the two men knew each other and had been drinking buddies.
Pointing out there was no history of a dispute or long-term grudge between the two men, Mr MacCreanor said Ward was in Mr Seeley’s flat “on a sociable basis”, that both men were drunk “but then something has gone wrong”.
He added: “It appears a quarrel has led to him murdering Mr Seeley in the context of two people who are well known to each other.
“It seems it is part and parcel of the lifestyle of many people who are involved in this level of intoxication – fighting or being attacked.”
Mr MacCreanor also spoke of a lack of planning or pre-meditation, adding it was Ward’s intention to cause grievous harm rather than kill, but said: “I accept there was a significant amount of violence used.”
Ward will learn next week how long he will have to spend behind bars for murder, before he is eligible to apply for parole.