Monday 24 October 2016

Man who allegedly shook his baby daughter to death to stand trial for her murder

Paul Higgins

Published 11/09/2015 | 12:21

Christopher O'Neill leaves a court hearing in July and baby Caragh
Christopher O'Neill leaves a court hearing in July and baby Caragh

A man who allegedly shook his baby daughter to death has been ordered to stand trial for her murder.

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Standing in the dock of Lisburn Magistrates Court in a white shirt and black striped tie, 25-year-old Christopher O'Neill confirmed that he was aware of the single charge and that he did not object to the committal proceedings.

When he first appeared in court in February last year, O'Neill was charged with causing grievous bodily harm to his three month old daughter Caragh Walsh but within hours of that court appearance, the little girl tragically died.

Following the death O'Neill, from the Whiterock Road, was charged with baby Caragh's manslaughter but in July this year, a senior prosecutor ordered a fresh post mortem report to be compiled, the content of which was described by the defence as "quite complex."

O'Neill is now charged with his daughters murder on February 7 last year.

Although no facts surrounding the tragic death were opened in court today (fri) a prosecuting lawyer submitted that based on the legal papers and statements before the court, there was a Prima Facie case against O'Neill.

As defence barrister Barry Gibson had no contrary submissions, District Judge Rosie Watters returned the case to the Crown Court for trial.

The court clerk told O'Neill he could comment on the charge, give evidence himself or call witnesses on his behalf but that anything which was said "will be written down and maybe given in evidence" at his potential trial.

O'Neill however said he did not wish to say anything.

Previous courts have heard how baby Caragh had suffered a "significant traumatic brain injury" and was bleeding onto her brain.

When O'Neill was first charged a police officer outlined how she was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital "unconscious and not breathing," adding that a CT scan revealed subarachnoid and subdural bleeding onto her brain.

The officer said police were alerted by medical staff whenever they were not happy with the explanation O'Neill provided for his daughter's injuries and that when challenged during police interviews, he admitted "shaking" her.

His solicitor claimed O'Neill had been looking after his daughter at the Glasvey Park flat he shared with Caragh's mum Tammy-Louise Walsh when their baby "became suddenly ill" so in a "panic," he took steps which he thought were "perfectly reasonable in the circumstances".

 The couple had been together for 18 months and had only moved into the apartment five days before the incident, the court heard.

On Friday Judge Watters released O'Neill in continuing bail and ordered him to appear before Craigavon Crown Court on 15 October for arraignment when the charge will be put to him for the first time.

 Following a defence application from Mr Gibson, the judge granted Legal Aid and extended it to allow for a senior QC to be instructed in the case.

Belfast Telegraph

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