Coroner clashes with man cleared of three murders

Arran Coghlan's account of heavily armed boxer's death is described as 'difficult' to believe
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The Independent Online

A businessman who has been charged with three murders but convicted of none clashed yesterday with a coroner who said he had "difficulty" accepting his account of the most recent of the deaths.

Arran Coghlan wanted Cheshire coroner Nicholas Rheinberg to find that he had lawfully killed Stephen Akinyemi in self-defence when he shot him through the temple at his home in Alderley Edge, Cheshire.

Mr Coghlan, 39, was charged with the 44-year-old's murder last year but was cleared. He had previously been cleared in 1996 of murdering drug dealer Chris Little, and in 2001 of the murder of David Barnshaw, who was burned alive.

The inquest into Mr Akinyemi's death also presented Mr Coghlan with the opportunity to challenge police over their conduct of a case centring on the events of 9 February last year, when Mr Akinyemi, an accomplished boxer, died after a struggle in which he was shot three times with a 9mm Beretta pistol.

Mr Coghlan said he was trying to arbitrate in a dispute between Mr Akinyemi and another associate when Mr Akinyemi produced the pistol and a knife.

Mr Rheinberg challenged him: "What I have difficulty with is how you, the less [physically] accomplished, managed to defend yourself when completely unarmed against a man wielding a gun and ... a knife."

Mr Coghlan replied: "Really? So you think I should have died in the process? That would have made you pleased? Now you want to draw an adverse criticism [of] me because I survived. What else could I have done?"

Mr Rheinberg responded: "If you look from the outside, you would be surprised by your survival." He then told Mr Coghlan that his testimony was finished – but the businessman retorted that he had "not finished".

Mr Coghlan raised evidence that Mr Akinyemi's non-blood DNA was found on one of the four bullet casings recovered from the scene. This suggested he might have handled the ammunition.

He also focused on blood patterns on the knife, which suggested he was stabbed with it before the gun was fired.

"We will deal in this court with proper respect," the coroner replied, ordering Mr Coghlan to resume his seat. He complied only after the coroner's officer politely reiterated the request, saying: "Thank you for saying please. Teach your friend [the coroner] some respect."

Returning an open verdict, Mr Rheinberg concluded: "What happened in Mr Coghlan's house is known only to Mr Coghlan. There is no way of knowing the sequence of events as they occurred, though that's not to say you are not telling the truth, Mr Coghlan."