John Paul McDonagh murder in Fermanagh: Joseph Joyce loses bid to overturn conviction after being sent to prison for slash murder

John Paul McDonagh, 18, suffered a fatal leg injury in the altercation outside Joyce’s home in Co Fermanagh.

Joseph Joyce Jnr, 33, claimed he was defending himself during a street fight in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, which led to the death of John Paul McDonagh in April 2020.

But the Court of Appeal today rejected submissions that the jury that found him guilty of murder should have been referred to a possible alternative verdict of manslaughter.

Chief Justice Dame Siobhan Keegan identified “compelling evidence” of his intention to cause actual serious harm with the scythe.

She said: “This was a deadly weapon which, according to the CCTV images, the complainant had equipped himself with before the altercation along with a bottle of ammonia.”

Mr McDonagh, 18, suffered a fatal leg injury in the altercation outside Joyce’s home in Coolcullen Meadow.

Victim John Paul McDonagh

The victim and his two brothers, who lived in nearby Drumawell Gardens, were said to have been involved in a violent argument with the defendant over noise from a party.

Footage played at his trial showed Joyce standing in the street with a baton and a plastic bottle filled with ammonia.

He claimed the brothers were armed with a knife, a bottle and a garden spade and that he responded to protect himself and his family.

Joyce subsequently expressed his regret at the death of Mr McDonagh and the loss suffered by the victim’s relatives.

However, in October last year he was jailed for at least ten years after being found guilty of murder.

Joyce’s lawyers claimed he acted in self-defence and told the appeal court that he only struck Mr McDonagh a single blow to the lower part of the body.

However, the Crown attorney argued that he arrived at the scene armed in a fight he wanted to win, and he raised his arms in victory after inflicting the fatal wound.

Joe Joyce pictured with his wife Ellen at a previous court appearance

He wanted to prove his superiority over the McDonaghs and knew that swinging a scythe could cause serious bodily harm, according to the prosecution.

Supporting these submissions, Dame Siobhan stated: “On no reading could it be said that the appellant had anything other than an intention to cause truly serious harm.”

“It does not matter that the beak hook was aimed at the lower body of the deceased. The well-aimed blow with the bill hook spoke for itself.”

Defense lawyers also argued that the description of Joyce as the “King of Travelers” was wrong to be presented to the jury because it implied that he was a skilled bare-knuckled fighter.

Although he agreed the evidence should have been kept out of the trial, the court ruled he had not suffered unfair harm when high-quality CCTV footage showed the confrontation in which Mr McDonagh was wounded.

“This was undoubtedly the central focus of the jury and against which they considered the oral and circumstantial evidence in the case,” the Chief Justice added.

She confirmed: “We have no concerns about the safety of this conviction. Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed.”


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