Denies committing lewd act with horse

The trial of a man accused of masturbating a horse is expecting to resume this morning.

No evidence was heard by the Derry Crown Court jury of seven men and five women yesterday, because a defence witness was unavailable.

Robert McLaughlin, of Sunnyside Drive, Maghera, is charged with committing an act outraging public decency with a horse on May 17, last year.

Earlier this week the jury heard evidence from a witness who claimed he saw the 64-year-old touching a horse, owned by the local Riding for Disabled Association, inappropriately.

He told the court he was “disgusted” by what he saw when he passed the field with his seven-year-old daughter.

The witness told the jury he was going to check on his daughter’s pony, which was about to foal, and claimed he saw McLaughlin in the field initially feed a black and white horse before touching it inappropriately.

He said he knew McLaughlin all his life and said he had a “clear view” of him in the field.

The jury heard further evidence that the witness saw the 64-year-old touch a second brown horse inappropriately and attempt to corner a brown pony.

He claimed that he then saw the defendant “pull his zip down and take out his penis” and masturbate himself.

The witness told the jury that the 64-year-old stopped his actions when a car passing by made a noise. He alleged that McLaughlin then looked up and made eye contact with him.

He said he later passed the defendant as he was standing outside the gate of the same field. The witness claimed McLaughlin told him, “I was just bringing bread up to feed the horses” but the witness didn’t speak to him because “I was disgusted”.

The jury heard that the man initially spoke to McLaughlin’s nephew about what he claims to have seen and reported the matter to police five days later.

He said he left it so long because “I didn’t know who to go to and explain what I seen”.

Under cross-examination, the witness denied that many local people would go into the field to feed the horses.

He said he watched McLaughlin in the field because he was “curious as to what was going on” and he “wanted to see how far it would go”.

The witness admitted he was “outraged” and “disgusted” but did not shout out or tell McLaughlin to stop what he was doing.

However, he said he didn’t do this because his daughter was there and he didn’t want her asking questions.

The witness denied suggestions by defence barrister Michael Forde that these allegations were “some form of retaliation” for McLaughlin calling him a thief almost two years ago.

Giving evidence on his behalf, Robert McLaughlin told the jury of seven men and five women that while he never owned any horses himself, he “always liked them”.

He claimed he would regularly go into the field owned by the Riding for Disabled Association and bring them apples or bread, often three to four times a week “if the weather was good”.

The 64-year-old said other people in the community would do the same thing or would use the fields as shortcuts to local scenic areas.

He told the jury that while he can’t remember if he was in the field on May 17, he remembers being up there that week.

When asked for his response to the allegations, McLaughlin replied, “I never done it”.

He added he would “never harm an animal” and when he learned of the allegations it made him feel “very bad”.

The jury heard that McLaughlin “never wanted anything to do” with the witness. He told them he had called the man a thief in a local shop and spoke to other people about it in 2010.

Under cross-examination by prosecution counsel Nicola Auret, McLaughlin denied he was “making this up as you go along”.

McLaughlin said he believed the witness was making allegations against him because he had spread rumours about the witness.

He added when he found out about the allegations he was “all annoyed”.

However, he accepted the prosecutors’ suggestions that the witness could have made the allegations earlier if it was for revenge, telling the jury “he could have, he could have done it anytime”.

As each of the allegations were put to the defendant, he denied them stating he did not behave inappropriately or masturbate a horse.

He further told the jury that the witness to the alleged incident is “nothing but a liar”.

At hearing.