The judge presiding over the trial of two people accused of murdering a disabled man then dumping his body in a wheelie bin today urged the jury to exercise “particular care” when considering the evidence – adding that they can return verdicts of manslaughter, not murder.
The jury of six women and five men was told by Mr Justice Treacy that they had a difficult decision to make regarding whether the defendants were guilty or not guilty of murdering Lurgan man Owen Creaney.
The 40-year old was subjected to a beating in the Moyraverty Court home of Craigavon man Stephen Thomas Hughes (29).
He has been charged with murder alongside co-accused Shaunean Boyle (25), from Edenderry Park in Banbridge.
Both of the defendants have admitted being present when Mr Creaney was attacked.
However, both have blamed each other for the violence.
As the trial entered its fifth week, Mr Justice Treacy accepted that this had been a difficult case, but urged the jury members to consider their verdicts carefully, based upon the evidence they have heard.
Branding the assault upon Mr Creaney as “vicious and ferocious”, Mr Justice Treacy said: “The central question in this case is this: who killed Owen Creaney?
“Was is Stephen Hughes alone, was it Shaunean Boyle alone, or did they, as the prosecution contend, attack Owen Creaney together and jointly?”
The judge also pointed out that prior to the attack, it appeared all of those involved had been “on a bender for a few days” and that all three were drunk when they arrived back to Hughes’s home in the early hours of Thursday July 3, 2014.
Following the attack, Mr Creaney was brought upstairs where he was showered and put into a change of clothes.
He was then placed on a sofa in an upstairs bedroom, where he lay for around two days before passing away from his injuries. His remains were then placed into a green wheelie bin.
During the trial, both Hughes and Boyle gave evidence from the witness box where they each blamed each other for the assault. Pointing out that both accused gave a different version of events regarding the assault and aspects of the aftermath, Mr Justice Treacy urged the jury to examine the evidence of each of the accused with “particular care.”
He also told the jury that three charges were available for them to consider – namely murder, manslaughter or assisting an offender.
Mr Justice Treacy told the jury that they could consider a manslaughter charge if they felt that it was not proved during the trial that there was an intent on the part of either or both of them to cause really serious harm to Mr Creaney.
This charge of manslaughter, the judge said, was available to both Hughes and Boyle, as was the charge of assisting an offender by acting in a way designed to avoid detection.
The judge is expected to finish his address to the jury tomorrow (Tuesday), before sending the members away to deliberate and verdicts.