Police now say attack on pub teen was murder
Published 02/01/2013 | 05:00
POLICE have formally launched a murder investigation into the death of student Jason McGovern.
The 19-year-old died after being attacked twice within two hours in Omagh on Monday.
It's emerged today that the college student, from Co Monaghan, was punched in the head at around midnight and assaulted again as he waited for a taxi home.
The officer leading the investigation, Detective Chief Inspector Richard Harkness of the PSNI, said he believed the attack was a “motiveless incident” fuelled probably by alcohol.
The attack on Jason was not spurred on by sectarianism, he added.
Police believe Jason, a second-year student of theatre management at Sligo IT, was the victim of two assaults as he socialised with a group of friends in the early hours of Monday morning.
Witnesses are understood to have told police that Jason was set on after trying to act as a 'peacemaker' during an altercation between revellers.
Investigators believe he was first assaulted in a pub on John Street just after midnight on Sunday night after he tried to break up a fight.
Jason continued on his night out before he was attacked outside a nightclub at about 2am.
Officers today made a fresh appeal for those involved to come forward and are particularly keen to speak to two middle-aged men who helped him and his friend into a taxi following the second assault.
An appeal has also been made to taxi drivers and motorists who may have been in the vicinity of the Weigh Inn car park in Omagh on Monday morning.
Detective Chief Inspector Richard Harkness stressed however that these individuals had nothing to do with the assault.
Jason managed to make his way to a friend's flat in Emyvale, Co Monaghan, but was found dead shortly after midday on New Year's Eve.
It is understood that he had complained of headaches before going to sleep.
CCTV footage of both incidents was being examined today.
Officers have identified a man of stocky build with either blond or red hair whom they believe was involved.
Meanwhile, the close-knit community of Tydavnet, Co Monaghan, has been plunged into grief.
It emerged that Jason often cared for his mother, Kathleen, who is understood to suffer from multiple sclerosis and is wheelchair-bound.
Local priest Fr Macartan McQuaid said the community has been devastated by the tragedy.
He said the young man was part of a group of around 20 that travelled from Emyvale to Omagh for a night out on Sunday. "Some of his friends have suggested that an argument broke out and he tried to intervene as a peacemaker, but was struck on the head," he said.
"It seems that as he headed to the bus later on, he was struck again.
"The person who was responsible for the assault was a stranger."
Fr McQuaid said the family are heartbroken at his death.
"His mother is very, very ill and he was very caring towards her and also his grandmother, who is an elderly lady.
"She told me last night how Jason went out for drives in the car and would often have phoned her and asked her to come.
"He was such a lovely young fella, the family are just shattered.
"It is beyond sad, it is such a waste of a young life.
"He was just a great young fella, a very personable and very pleasant young man.
"He was very much involved in the local parish as an altar server and had trained to be a eucharistic minister."
Friends have left dozens of poignant tributes on his Facebook page.
One read: "RIP Jason, you were such a wonderful, happy, kind and fun person who was always smiling. It was a pleasure to have known you.
"Thank you for all the chats, and giggles. You were a gentleman and you will be sadly missed. Rest in peace lovely one."
Josephine Deehan, an SDLP councillor in Omagh, said she was shocked by Mr McGovern's death.
"It is a parent's worst nightmare that your child could go out for an evening's entertainment and this sort of thing could happen," she said.
"There are issues that will need to be addressed. People need to do a lot of thinking about taking responsibility for their own actions and behaviour."
Sinn Fein MLA Declan McAleer expressed his concern at the violent assault.
"Whilst the post-mortem will establish the exact cause of Jason's death, I am very disturbed that he was the victim of such an attack in Omagh and I am also very concerned about the increasing level of drink- fuelled crime in our community," he said.
"This is devastating news for the McGovern family. The loss of a loved one is terrible at any time of the year but made more poignant as it coincides with the beginning of the new year."
A post-mortem was being carried out yesterday to confirm the cause of death.
The house at Emyvale where he was found dead was sealed off for a full garda technical examination which is a matter of standard procedure.