Northern Ireland

Christopher Meli: Two jailed for killing Belfast man

Christopher Meli Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Twenty-year-old Christopher Meli was killed in December 2015

Two men have been jailed for the manslaughter of a father of one in west Belfast in 2015.

Eight defendants were sentenced for various offences arising from the death of 20-year-old Christopher Meli.

Mr Meli was beaten to death at an area known as Doc's Path in the Twinbrook estate in December 2015.

Belfast Crown Court was told of a confused and chaotic series of assaults between two groups of young people which resulted in Mr Meli's death.

He was knocked to the ground and surrounded by a crowd which repeatedly kicked him.

Members of the public phoned the emergency services, but Mr Meli had died by the time they arrived.

Lee Smyth, 22, whose address was given as Maghaberry prison, was described in court as having played a leading role in the death.

'Unjustified attack'

He pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was jailed for nine years - half of which is to be served in custody and the rest on licence.

"I accept as is the basis of your plea that when you involved yourself in this unjustified attack on Mr Meli you did not intend to cause him really serious harm," Mr Justice Colton told him.

"Of course this is why you face a charge of manslaughter and not murder."

A secondary participant in the attack was 20-year-old Caolan Laverty from Belfast Road in Glenavy.

The judge said he ran with the group involved in Mr Meli's death but has now changed his life for the better.

He was sentenced to five years, half of which is to be served in prison.

The six other defendants who also pleaded guilty to lesser charges received various combinations of community service and probation orders.

They are:

  • Stephen McCann, 22, from Dundrinne Road in Castlewellan. He was ordered to carry out 150 hours community service after admitting affray.
  • Aaron Stilges, from Laurelvale in Crumlin, admitted affray linked to attacks on Mr Meli's two friends, and to assaulting one of the men. He was placed on probation for two years.
  • Gary Lewis, 21, from Antrim Road in Belfast, also admitted affray in the fighting which led to the attacks on the two friends and to assaulting one of them. He was handed a combination order of 40 hours community service and two years probation.
  • Daniel McGrath, 21, from Thornhill Crescent in Dunmurry, admitted affray and was ordered to carry out 100 hours community service.
  • Daniel McManus, 20, from Springbank Avenue in Belfast, also admitted affray and was placed on probation for a year.
  • Shannon McIlwaine, 21, from Glenalina Crescent Belfast- admitted affray and was given a conditional discharge.

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