Northern Ireland

Darren Casey tried to save victim Owen McKeown, court told

Owen McKeown's body was found in the River Bann Image copyright PACEMAKER
Image caption Owen McKeown's body was found in the River Bann

A bodybuilder said to have put his own life in danger trying to save a drowning man he had earlier chased and assaulted, will be sentenced for the unlawful killing before Christmas.

A court heard that Darren Joseph Casey, 26, jumped into the River Bann to try to save Owen Gerard McKeown after they had fought on 5 May 2012.

Casey had previously admitted the manslaughter of Mr McKeown, 21.

A judge adjourned his sentencing at Antrim Crown Court.

A prosecutor told the judge while it was accepted Casey, from Claragh Hill Grange, Kilrea, did not intend Mr McKeown's death, by his unlawful act of striking him, and his guilty plea to manslaughter, he accepted responsibility for his death.

'Punched to the ground'

Earlier, the prosecutor said Mr McKeown, had travelled to Kilrea from his Dunclug estate home in Ballymena with two others, and collected Casey to get steroid drugs that both Casey and McKeown used as part of their body-building regime.

As they were climbing over a fence, Mr McKeown allegedly struck out at Casey who punched him to the ground, where he continued his attack.

The prosecutor said a group of canoeists then saw a fully-clothed man jump into the river.

"He swam out from the bank, and then disappeared under the water. Another male then striped off his clothing and also entered the water in an apparent attempt to rescue the first male," the lawyer said.

Unable to save Mr McKeown, Casey returned to the bank, dressed and left the area in a car.

A post mortem report on Mr McKeown, whose cause of death was drowning, also indicated that he may well have been under the influence of drugs at the time.

A defence lawyer said Casey's version of events could be independently corroborated by statements from two men who had travelled from Ballymena with Mr McKeown.

They indicated that as Casey was climbing over a fence to get the steroid drugs, "the deceased, for no apparent reason, struck him and he responded". McKeown was knocked to the ground, where Casey continued with the assault.

"That response was in excess of defending himself, which constitutes, and gives rise to the unlawful act in this case," added the lawyer.

The defence lawyer said Casey had followed Mr McKeown into the river, "in an attempt to redeem the situation and put his own life at risk in an attempt to save him".

Casey, he added, had shown genuine, sincere and deep remorse, and had later gone with his father to police, and was so extremely upset at the death of Mr McKeown, could not be properly interviewed and was admitted to Holywell Hospital for a time.

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