A man was butchered in front of his “heavily pregnant” wife and young daughter a jury heard today.
The Belfast Crown Court jury of six men and six women heard that despite Julia Mongan pleading for the three men to spare her husband John, they ignored her and continued with their murderous attack, hacking him to death with their weapons, possibly a hatchet, a machete and a baseball bat.
At one stage during the atttack which left the bedroom of the house in Fallswater Street splattered with blood, Mr Mongan’s seven-year-old daughter came out of her bedroom and saw her father being battered.
In the dock accused of murdering 30-year-old father-of-two Mr Mongan in the early hours of February 7 2008 and causing criminal damage to his Mitsibushi Shogun jeep is 19-year-old Martin Stokes from the Glendale Road in Derry.
Prosecuting QC Frank O’Donoghue told the jury that Mrs Mongan had posivitely identified Stokes, who is her cousin, as one of three men who attacked her husband.
He also told the jury that two other witnesses, John and Kathleen Stokes, came forward last April to tell police that before the men went to Fallswater Street, they had called at their former home in Norfolk Grove.
The lawyer said Mrs Mongan’s identification of Martin, Edward and Christopher Stokes was supported by the fact that Mr Mongan’s blood had been found on Edward while a mobile phone associated with Christopher could be shown to have travelled from Derry to the Falls Road area of west Belfast “at a time consistent with the killing”.
Recounting to the jury how Mr Mongan’s death was due to multiple cuts and stabs from bladed weapons which caused “torrential bleeding,” Mr O’Donoghue told the jury: “You may feel that the nature and extent of the multiple injuries caused are such to suggest that this was intended by the persons who attacked him to be more than a beating and indeed, provide significant evidence that the attackers intended to kill John Mongan.”
Earlier that day Mr and Mrs Mongan, who was due to give birth the next day, had had a normal afternoon about the house before he left on business in the afternoon and did not return until the early hours.
As the couple lay in bed they heard the front door being smashed in and footsteps trampling up the stairs, said the lawyer, adding that Mrs Mongan recognised the voices of Edward and Christopher Stokes as they shouted.
He told the jury that everyone involved in the case are members of the travelling community and that at the time, there was “bad blood” between Mr Mongan and the Stokes family.
Mr O’Donoghue said Mrs Mongan jammed the bed against the door in an effort to stop the men coming in but that as the couple stood in the bedroom, “she could see a hatchet coming through the door” and when it was rammed off its hinges, Christopher Stokes was the first man in.
Armed with a hatchet, the lawyer claimed Christopher Stokes slammed it into Mr Mongan’s shoulder, knocking him to the ground where he was allegedly attacked by all three with Martin Stokes allegedly armed with a baseball bat.
“With blood flying everywhere she kept crying and asking them to stop but they ignored her and continued,” said Mr O’Donoghue, adding that when they eventually left, Edward Stokes struck Mrs Mongan on the head and shoulder but that Martin intervened, telling him, “don’t be hitting her”.
Tragically, despite the emergency services rushing to the scene, “John Mongan was so seriously attacked and beaten that he could not be saved” and a murder investigation was launched.
Neighbours reported seeing an Isuzu Trooper in the area around the time and such a jeep, connected to the Stokes family, was found burnt out in a forest just outside Irvinestown in Co Fermanagh, at 4am.
Within 12 hours of the gruesome killing, Martin Stokes was arrested at his sister’s home in Derry and the jury heard that during police questioning, he claimed to have been there the whole night and then refused to answer police questions.
Warning the jury to set aside any feelings of sympathy or prejudice, Mr O’Donoghue said for them, the issue was not on the guilt or innocence of Christopher or Edward Stokes but whether Martin Stokes was one of the three alleged assailants.
“There are very few things in this life we can be absolutely sure of,” said the lawyer “but if at the end of this case you are firmly convinced [of his guilt] it is your duty to convict the defendant.”
The trial continues.