A MAN used an anniversary Mass for his brother to launch a vicious churchyard knife attack on his brother-in-law as part of a bitter family dispute.
Martin Ward, (33), plunged a serrated-edge hunting knife through a car window at Michael McDonagh as he left his wife – and Ward’s sister – Anne outside the Church of the Irish Martyrs in Letterkenny, a court heard.
Mr McDonagh suffered wounds to his face and puncture wounds to his hand and back, he told Letterkenny District Court.
Ward yesterday denied a Section 3 assault causing harm charge, claiming he was in Thurles, Co Tipperary, at the time of the attack on June 26, 2012.
But Mr McDonagh’s wife Anne – the sister of the accused – said the family were gathering at the church for a memorial Mass for another brother Charles who had died in 2010 after drowning in the River Foyle in Derry.
She that she and her husband were late for the Mass and her husband had left her to the front door of the church.
As Mr McDonagh was turning the car, her brother Martin appeared and plunged a knife through an open window.
“The next thing I know was I got a blow to the side of my head. I seen Martin Ward and I said ‘what’s this for?’ and he said ‘it’s over your brother, your brother’.
“He kept on stabbing me through the window with a hunting knife, a dagger.
“I managed to climb over the seat into the passenger seat and get out of the car.”
Mr McDonagh said he sought refuge in a shop nearby and realised he was bleeding from several wounds.
Asked by defence solicitor Paul McAlinden why his client had carried out the attack, Mr McDonagh replied: “He had an argument with my brother; my brother wasn’t around and he was seeking revenge on somebody and he took it out on me.”
Mr McDonagh’s wife Anne told the court: “I thought Michael was dead. When I saw him getting out of the car blood was running down his face.
“I shouted to my brother ‘what did you do Martin?’”
She said Ward was now back living in Donegal and would laugh at her and her husband outside the local primary school, with one alleged incident just two weeks ago.
In his evidence Ward, whose address was given as Ard Na Ri, Letterkenny, insisted he wasn’t in Co Donegal that day, but was in Co Tipperary hunting foxes with a friend.
He said he was living in Thurles at the time had never even been to the Church of the Irish Martyrs before.
But Inspector Michael Harrison, prosecuting, gave a list of weddings and christenings at the same church at which Martin Ward had been a guest.
“I can’t read or write. I didn’t know the name of the church,” replied Ward.
Ward admitted under cross-examination that Mr McDonagh's brother John Joe had stabbed him during an attack in July 2010. The Inspector said the attack on Mr McDonagh was revenge for this.
A friend of the accused, Michael Crowe, gave alibi evidence that Ward was with him on the day of the incident.
He said they were out hunting foxes and rabbits in Co Tipperary at the time.
“You were out hunting foxes during the day? That’s a good one,” remarked Inspector Harrison, dismissing the claim.
Judge Kelly dismissed Ward’s defence, saying he found the evidence of Ward’s sister Anne and her husband Michael McDonagh proved that it was Ward who carried out the attack.
The judge then ruled he couldn’t sentence Ward for the offence as there was an outstanding one year suspended prison sentence which involved a Section 3 assault using a sword in 2008.
The sentence, which included Ward being bound over to keep the peace for seven years, had been handed down at the Donegal Circuit Court.
Ward was remanded in custody and will appear at the Circuit Court in Letterkenny today. Judge Kelly said he would sentence Ward for the attack on his brother-in-law once the Circuit Court hearing concluded.