Judge grimaced after shown facial slash wounds of female victim

Court gavel
Court gavel

A judge visibly grimaced in court today (Monday) after he was shown photographs of facial slash wounds allegedly inflicted on a woman because she was in a lesbian relationship.

Refusing to release husband and wife James and Geraldine Ward on bail and having been handed photographs of the injuries they allegedly inflicted, District Judge Peter King told Lisburn Magistrates Court: “In my practice as defence counsel I have gone through far too many post mortem photographs however very few have made my stomach churn the way these photographs have.”

James Ward (43) and his 44-year-old wife Geraldine, both from Lawn Park in Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal and a third man, Simon McDonagh (33) from Carnmore Rise in Enniskillen, are all jointly charged with inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent and possessing a knife with intent to cause GBH on 29 May this year.

Previous courts have heard how the victim was slashed amid claims she was in a homosexual relationship with the Wards’ daughter so the police are treating the incident as a hate crime.

The victim claims she was cut with a carpet knife after accepting she was to be “punished” at a meeting with the girl’s parents near a police station in Lurgan.

The victim told police she became aware on May 26 that the Wards were planning to harm her but she managed to evade the couple for three days before going to Lurgan Police Station in fear and an attempt to find a safe place.

According to her account she was then phoned and told the couple had arrived in the town with McDonagh to look for her and that during the call she was threatened: “We are coming to get you, if we have to stay here a month we will get you.”

She claimed she walked to a car park where the waiting couple both grabbed her amid attempts to pull her into a vehicle while McDonagh remained inside.

At that point Ward allegedly urged his wife: “Cut the face off her or I’m going to do it.”

It was claimed Mrs Ward then produced a carpet knife and slashed the woman’s face several times at a car park on William Street in Lurgan.

Today (Monday) a detective constable confirmed the Wards’ alleged victim had made a withdrawal statement but added the police “do not believe that’s been done of the injured party’s entire own volition.”

She said police were still objecting to bail because given the motivation behind the alleged attack and the fact that the complainant is still in a same-sex relationship with the Wards’ daughter, “we believe that the motivation is still there.”

The officer said while the Wards refused to co-operate with the police investigation, McDonagh on the other hand had “co-operated fully,” leading police to fear for his safety as well.

McDonagh, previous courts have heard, denies knowing any knife attack was to be carried out on the victim, claiming instead that he thought the couple were merely going to “have it out” with the woman, believing only that she may “get a few slaps”.

Under costs examination from defence barrister Peter Coiley, the detective confirmed that despite the withdrawal statement and legal obstacles to be overcome regarding admissibility of evidence, the case against the defendants would continue.

The lawyer submitted that all three were charged on the basis of a joint enterprise, with McDonagh already freed, the victim living at an undisclosed address and the Wards address in Donegal deemed suitable by police that they could be released on bail albeit under “stringent conditions,” and even barred from entering NI.

The officer replied however that police still “have very grave concerns” for the safety of the alleged victim.

Refusing to release the Wards because “I’m not persuaded there’s been a change of circumstance,” Judge King said while the “evidential matrix is complicated, the factual matrix is not.”

“I’m dealing with a case where gross violence was meted out in a crime inspired by clear hostility to someone’s sexual orientation,” said the judge, ordering the Wards to appear again in a week.