Mark Ward appeal against Marcell Seeley murder conviction thrown out

Marcell Seeley died from blunt force trauma to the head
Marcell Seeley died from blunt force trauma to the head

A man jailed for beating and stamping a father of four to death has failed in a bid to overturn his murder conviction.

Mark Ward, 27, claimed jurors were not properly directed on how his level of drunkenness impacted on the intent to kill Marcell Seeley in Lurgan, Co Armagh.

But the Court of Appeal ruled that he had received a fair trial.

Mr Justice McCloskey said: “There was no evidential platform from which the jury, properly directed, could reasonably have found that the appellant lacked the requisite intent by reason of intoxication.”

Mr Seeley’s body was discovered in the living room of his Dingwell Park flat in October 2015.

The 34-year-old victim, also known as Junior, died from blunt force trauma to the head.

He had also sustained multiple injuries, including fractures to his ribs and a bone just above his voice box.

A pathologist concluded that he would have survived for several hours after the attack.

Ward, from Drumellan Gardens in Craigavon, denied murdering Mr Seeley – a man he was said to have known for around a decade.

But in October 2017 he was sentenced to a minimum 16 years behind bars after a jury found him guilty.

Footprints found at the scene of the killing had been key to his conviction.

A distinctive sole pattern was matched to shoes worn by Ward in CCTV footage of him walking towards the victim’s home on the night of the alleged murder.

Ward’s level of intoxication and how it impacted on the question of intent to commit murder were central to his appeal.

Defence lawyers said evidence showed he had consumed two half-bottles of vodka, around 10 beers and taken cocaine over a 10-hour period on the night in question.

Ward had been described as “wiped”, and was also reportedly shouting at police in the area.

It was contended that a specific legal direction should have been given about the defendant’s drunkenness.

Instead, the defence argued, the charge to the jury on the issue “favoured the prosecution”.

Crown counsel rejected any need for such a direction because the focus had been properly on establishing who committed the killing.

The court was told evidence showed Mr Seeley was kicked and stamped on, and that Ward, on his own account, knew what he had done.

Ruling on the appeal, Mr Justice McCloskey said there was “no hint of alcoholic haze or blur” in Ward’s recollection of his movements.

“Common sense imbued with reality points strongly to the view that these are not the accounts of a person who was so heavily intoxicated as to be incapable of forming the requisite intent,” he said.

“If further reinforcement of this analysis is required, it is provided by the nature and extent of the deceased’s injuries.”

Finding that a direction to the jury on the issue of Ward’s drunkenness was not necessary, he added: “This court harbours no reservations about the safety of his conviction.”

With his appeal against conviction thrown out, Ward is now set to mount a further challenge to the prison term imposed.