Man hacked to death in front of pregnant wife, court is told

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The Independent Online

A father was hacked and beaten to death in front of his heavily pregnant wife — who gave birth the next day — and seven-year-old daughter, a jury has heard.

Belfast Crown Court also heard allegations that Julia Mongan pleaded with masked men to stop attacking her husband John Mongan “but they ignored her and continued with the beating”.

Denying the murder are Londonderry men 34-year-old Christopher Stokes, Edward Gabriel Stokes, 38, and a 16-year-old boy who cannot be identified because of his age.

The three also deny causing criminal damage to a Mitsubishi Shogun jeep owned by Mr Mongan and Edward Stokes denies a further charge of wounding Mrs Mongan with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, with all the offences dated on February 7 last year.

Opening the case, prosecuting QC Gordon Kerr said Mr Mongan was beaten to death in his Fallswater Street home in west Belfast after a gang of four men burst into the bedroom.

He told the jury the main Crown witness would be Mrs Mongan.

Speaking as a number of female relatives of Mr Mongan cried in the packed public gallery, where the two families were kept apart by up to 10 uniformed police officers, Mr Kerr outlined how the pair had been married for 10 years, had three children but suffered the tragedy of one dying as an infant and had another child on the way.

On the day before he was killed, Mr Mongan had gone down south to see about buying a van. Mr Mongan got back just before 1am and soon joined his wife in bed but the pair were soon awoken by the front door being smashed open and heard male voices shouting “get up, where are you?.

“Her evidence will be that she recognised one voice as being the voice of Christopher Stokes,” claimed the lawyer, adding that he was a cousin to Mrs Mongan and had known him since she was a child.

Mr Kerr told the jury there had been “bad blood” between Mr Mongan and the Stokes' so when she heard the voices, she thought they were there “to give John a beating”.

As she closed their bedroom door, Mrs Mongan heard another voice she recognised as belonging to Edward Stokes, another cousin of hers, before there was a “thud” at the door.

“A hatchet came through the door,” said Mr Kerr, “she was terrified and tried to move the bed to the door to stop it opening” adding that she shouted she was due to have a baby “but that didn't deter them in any way”.

It is the Crown case, said Mr Kerr, that Christopher Stokes was the first man through the door and that he struck the first blow with a hatchet, hitting Mr Mongan on the shoulder and felling him, after which he never got up.

He claimed that Edward Stokes was next through, armed with a baton, followed by the teenager, who appeared to have a baseball bat.

As the men rained blows on him with their weapons, Mrs Mongan continually begged them to stop, but her husband remained silent throughout, never uttering a word, said the lawyer.

As the attack carried on, the lawyer said, Mrs Mongan got the impression there was another man standing outside the bedroom door and added that at one stage, her seven-year-old daughter came out of her bedroom “and was able to see this brutal attack on her daddy”.

When the men left, Mrs Mongan went to follow them out to make sure they did not go into her children’s bedroom but as they walked out, Edward Stokes allegedly hit her on the head and shoulder with whatever weapon he had, before he was pushed away by the teenager who said “don't be hitting her”.

Parked outside the house was Mr Mongan's Mitsubishi Shogun 4x4 jeep and the gang attacked it, smashing in the windows and beating the panels before a total of four men, as one neighbour described, walked away and sped off in an Isuzu Trooper jeep.

Mr Mongan's body was examined by Assistant State Pathologist Dr Ingram, who said that his death had been due to multiple cuts and stab wounds.

Among the numerous injuries he suffered, Mr Mongan had received cuts and stab wounds to his left shoulder and chest, the left side of his abdomen and left arm, his thumb was partially severed and there was a cut to his scalp which was so deep the skull was visible.

The result of the injuries, said Mr Kerr, would have been “torrential bleeding” and many of the wounds were caused by a bladed implement such as a knife, machete, axe or hatchet.

The lawyer claimed that as well as being identified as the attackers by Mrs Mongan, Edward Stokes was allegedly linked to the attack by a blood-stained shirt, recovered from the washing machine at his Cornfields home in Derry which, on being examined, contained the DNA profile of Mr Mongan on a small blood smear which was on the lower back of the garment.

Arrested at a house in the Glengalia area of Derry, Christopher Stokes, said Mr Kerr, could be shown to be linked to a mobile phone which was in Derry on the evening of February 6 but which cell-site analysis showed had travelled to west Belfast at the time of the attack and then left, travelling to Kesh and then back to Derry.

The trial, set to last up to two months, continues.

* Source: The Belfast Telegraph.