Murder accused David Lyness takes stand but refuses to give evidence

David Lyness refused to answer questions from both the defence and prosecution
David Lyness refused to answer questions from both the defence and prosecution

A father of three currently on trial for murdering his fiancee took to the witness stand – then refused to answer any questions.

In unprecedented scenes at Belfast Crown Court, Lurgan man David Lyness affirmed an oath to tell the truth to the court and jury. He then answered a few questions before accusing his barrister of trying to get him to commit perjury.

Despite being advised by Judge Geoffrey Miller QC to answer questions, the 52-year old from Toberhewny Hall sat in silence whilst he was questioned by his own barrister then cross-examined by a Crown barrister.

He is accused of murdering Anita Downey in the early hours of January 20 last year. She died from a fatal neck wound which practically severed her jugular vein and caused a cut to her cervical spine bone.

The jury has already heard evidence from Lyness’s son, who told the court he saw his father “sawing” Ms Downey’s neck and trying to cut her head off.

This has been rejected by Lyness, who denies murder and instead claimed Ms Downey, 51, came at him with a knife which resulted in a struggle as he tried to disarm her. He said during this struggle, they both ended up on the floor, where he noticed blood coming from his fiancee.

As the trial entered its third week, Lyness was called to the witness box, where he initially answered some questions asked by his barrister. Lyness confirmed he and Ms Downey commenced their relationship in January 2014, and also revealed “me and Anita courted as young teenagers”.

He was then asked what happened after they became engaged in July 2016, and when he was asked whether “the problems actually started before the ring was purchased?”, Lyness told his barrister he was not answering any more questions as he was asking him to perjure himself.

As his barrister tried again to question Lyness about his relationship, Lyness said: “I have nothing to say to you any more. I have made my point.”

After refusing to answer any more questions from his own legal team, Lyness adopted the same silent approach with the Crown barrister, telling him “I have nothing to say to you”.

At this point, Judge Miller intervened. Addressing Lyness in the witness box, the trial judge reminded the Lurgan man he had taken an oath and told him “I advise you strongly you should answer questions asked of you”.

The Crown barrister resumed the cross-examination, with Lyness refusing to answer anything.

The prosecutor set out Lyness’s version of events, which he branded “nonsense”. Pointing out to Lyness that his own son gave evidence which completely contradicted his version, the prosecutor told him: “This is your opportunity to tell the ladies and gentlemen of the jury all about that night.”

Refusing to look at pictures of the bloodied and lifeless Ms Downey lying on his living room floor, he was asked: “Can you tell the members of the jury how she received these injuries accidentally. What happened?”

Branding Lyness’s claim that Ms Downey came at him first with a knife as “nonsense” the prosecutor accused Lyness of losing his temper. When this accusation was met with silence, the prosecutor continued: “Tell the jury how this terrible accident took place. You have nothing to say? You have no explanation for this at all?

“You deliberately killed this lady, isn’t that correct? That’s why you are sitting there with no explanation to put forward.”

After telling Lyness his version of events was “ridiculous”, the prosecutor said: “I am putting it to you that you beat Anita Downey with your fists then went for a knife, and you came back and used your left hand to steady her head and sawed at her throat with your right hand, causing the injuries that the jury has heard about. You deliberately caused those injuries, didn’t you?”

The jury has been sent home until Wednesday, when both the Crown and defence will give their closing speeches to the jury.

At hearing.