A 36-year-old Co Antrim man has been cleared of killing a doorman out celebrating Christmas.
The jury at Antrim Crown Court took just over two and a half hours to acquit Muredach Martin Doherty of the manslaughter of 48-year-old Colin McLeister on Monday.
Mr McLeister fell to his death down a flight of stairs at an entertainment complex in Portrush.
After the verdict, Mr Doherty, of Hawthorn Crescent, Dunloy, offered his sympathies to Mr McLeister’s family.
As Mr McLeister’s three young children wept in the public gallery, a defence lawyer told the court: “Regardless of what the verdict might have been, my client had provided me with specific instructions to express his deepest sympathy to the McLeister family for what was a very unfortunate accident.”
Mr McLeister died as he was helping another doorman escort a drunken Mr Doherty from The Playhouse in the early hours of 17 December 2011.
Mr Doherty claimed it was a tragic accident which occurred as he “misfooted” and stumbled into Mr McLeister.
The prosecution case was that a drunken Mr Doherty deliberately pushed the doorman to his death.
Mr Doherty’s week-long trial heard that Mr McLeister was with a number of other doormen attending their company’s Christmas party, run by their boss who is also leaseholder of The Playhouse complex.
Judge Desmond Marrinan heard that Mr Doherty was initially “shown the door” by the company boss, who left him at the top of the stairs as he appeared to have accepted “his night was over”.
Left to his own devices, Mr Doherty turned and was walking back into the nightclub when stopped by doorman, Billy Oliver, who was soon joined by Mr McLeister.
Together they began to “march” him back down the stairs. Again Mr Doherty appeared to be compliant, and “everything was going to to go off peacefully... with no pushing or shoving”.
However, at some point Mr McLeister ended up in front of Mr Doherty, and the tragic devastating accident occurred.
Mr Oliver said in “a bolt out of the blue” Mr Doherty give his friend a 40 percent push, with both hands, before both tumbled down the stairs. However, under cross-examination he conceded that Mr Doherty may have stumbled and pushed into Mr McLeister.
For seven of his police interviews Mr Doherty denied pushing Mr McLeister, telling police: “It wasn’t me... I never pushed this guy”.
However, when told of Mr Oliver’s evidence, he said: “They were marching me down the stairs and whenever I was going down the stairs I misfooted and I just put my hands out to save myself and I just went tumbling down the stairs and the big lad went with me... pure accident,” he maintained.