THE trial of a 36-year-old man accused of unlawful killing, heard how a Christmas night out for a company of ‘doormen’ ended in tragedy when one of them fell to his death down a flight of stairs at the Playhouse complex in Portrush.
Antrim Crown Court heard that it was the prosecution case that Muredach (pronounced Murdock) Martin Doherty pushed the 48-year-old former bouncer, Colin McLeister to his death, while he claims he “misfooted” and put his hands out to save himself, before they both ended up at the bottom of the stairs.
Doherty, from Hawthorn Crescent, Dunloy, denies the manslaughter of the father of three on December 17, 2011, who was attending his company’s Christmas party, run by his boss who also leased The Playhouse.
Prosecution QC Philip Mateer told the jury of six men and six women that initially Doherty claimed to have little or no memory of what occured, or having kicked out as Mr McLeister lay at the foot of the stairs, or of being abusive with police following his arrest.
Mr Mateer revealed that The Playhouse had been the second premises Doherty was asked to leave, and that it was also the second time that he was being shown out of the entertainments complex when Mr McLeister fell.
The lawyer claimed there had been a disturbance in the toilet area, witnessed by Mr McLeister’s company boss who was holding the party for his staff. He escorted Doherty, “in a professional way” to the stairwell, telling him that his night was “effectively” over. Doherty appeared to have complied with all that was asked of him and did not resist.
However, as the company boss left, Doherty was seen to turn around and head back in the direction of the toilets. Another of those at the party made it “clear to the defendant he would have to leave” and began to “walk him out” helped by Mr McLeister .
Again Doherty appeared to be compliant, and that “everything was going to to go off peacefully .... with no pushing or shoving”. However, at some point Mr McLeister ended up in front of Doherty as he was being taken down stairs, and according to the prosecution, “pushed on Mr McLeister’s back and it resulted in him falling down the stairs”.
Mr Mateer said during the first eight police interviews Doherty claimed that he “didn’t do it” and when asked if he could recall the events, said: “just I cant remember that much about it really”, but claimed police “were being rough with him” when he was being arrested.
He also remember that beforehand he was grabbed by the neck by two guys who were also rough with him.
“But definitely I never pushed anybody or anything like that,” Doherty said, as he also told police: “The one thing I don’t have is a good memory,” adding that he only “wished he had” so he could prove his innocence.
He also told officers that “there is no reason why, I could think of, to make me want to push anybody”.
Mr Mateer said that Doherty denied pushing Mr McLeister, telling police, “It wasn’t me...I never pushed this guy”.
However, when Doherty was told what Mr Mc Leister’s fellow bouncer had said, he described to detectives how he ended up on top of the doorman at the bottom of the stairs.
“They were marching me down the stairs and whenever I was going down the stairs I misfooted and I just put my hand out to save myself and I just went tumbling down the stairs and the big lad went with me .... pure accident”.
The case, which is expected to last this week, continues on Tuesday.