Coma victim pair admit manslaughter

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Two men – originally charged with murder - have admitted the manslaughter of an Armagh man who was in a coma for two years after being beaten in the city in June 2010.

Michael Wilson, 23, Marlacoo Road, Tandragee, and 24-year-old Gareth McKinney, originally of Charles Park, Portadown, had been accused of the murder of 32-year-old Lee Smyth.

Mr Smyth never regained consciousness after being attacked by the pair in Armagh in June 2010.

At Armagh Crown Court on Wednesday lawyers applied for their clients to be re-arraigned.

As the murder charge was put to them again, Wilson, a Royal Irish Regiment soldier, and McKinney again denied the charge.

However, they both pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Mr Smyth who had suffered a catastrophic brain injury, from which he never recovered.

A prosecution lawyer told the judge he had considered the pleas to the lesser charge and in view of the evidence he was prepared to accept them in the interests of justice.

Wilson also pleaded guilty to robbing Mr Smyth of a cigarette tin after he was left unconscious in a pool of blood, and almost unrecognisable, following the attack in the Folly area of Armagh city.

On Tuesday, the first day of the trial, a former girlfriend of one of the accused said the pair had jumped on Mr Smyth’s head “like a trampoline”.

Both Wilson and McKinney will be sentenced next month, and while McKinney was released on continuing bail, the judge said it in no way could be taken as indication that he would not inevitably face a custodial sentence.