Monday 19 March 2018

Belfast man charged with murder of his baby daughter

O'Neill leaving a court hearing in July and baby Caragh
O'Neill leaving a court hearing in July and baby Caragh

Paul Higgins

A west Belfast man has been charged with murdering his baby daughter.

When he first appeared in Lisburn Magistrates Court in February last year, 25-year-old Christopher 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 last month, a senior prosecutor ordered a fresh post mortem report to be compiled.

O'Neill, with an address on the Whiterock Road, was back in the dock of Lisburn court today, this time charged with his daughter's murder on February 7 last year.

A preliminary enquiry, a legal step committing O'Neill to the Crown Court to stand trial for his daughter's murder, was due to be held today but was adjourned on foot of a defence application.

Defence solicitor Paul Sweeney said he had only received "voluminous papers" in the last few days including what he described as "quite complex" medical evidence and asked Deputy District Judge Philip Mateer to adjourn the case for two weeks.

A prosecuting lawyer said she had no objection and releasing O'Neill on continuing bail, Judge Mateer told him to come back on September 11

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".

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.

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