THE Police Ombudsman’s office has been ordered to re-investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of a Magherafelt man after a coroner highlighted a number of failings in their original report.
Forty-eight-year-old William Guy – a prison officer – was found slumped against a wall at the bottom of stairs outside a flat on Rainey Street in the town on February 22, 2009 by police who had been called to the property.
A number of people including Mr Guy and his girlfriend Tara McNabb had gathered at the flat after drinking at several local pubs.
Police officers were called shortly before 4am after one of the tenants requested that people be removed.
Officers attempted to help Mr Guy to his feet but he collapsed.
At an earlier hearing, police revealed that Tara McNabb’s brother Liam had been questioned over the “suspicious death” and a report sent to the public prosecution service. The PPS recommended that no charges should be pressed against Mr McNabb as there “had been insufficient evidence”.
Several witnesses who had been at the flat alleged that Mr McNabb had said he had punched the victim before he fell and hit his head. However, Mr McNabb denied those claims.
“He lost his balance, he fell and I can remember helping him to his feet,” said Mr McNabb. “I definitely did not punch the man.”
Tara McNabb, originally from Birmingham, also told the court that the couple had just got engaged in the days before the tragedy.
Yesterday, at the second hearing of the inquest, which had been adjourned, the court heard more evidence from witnesses which conflicted with the accounts put forward by police.
Kirsten McAllister, who shared the flat along with her sister Jennifer, said Mr Guy had been “aggressive” and highly intoxicated during a confrontation.
She said she was ”110 per cent sure” that Liam McNabb had punched Mr Guy. “It sounded like a really hard punch,” she said.
Her sister Jennifer said she had seen Mr Guy sitting halfway down the stairwell when police arrived at the scene.
She also recalled hearing a gurgling noise coming from Mr Guy moments earlier.
Coroner Joanne Donnelly said there were clear discrepancies between the evidence of the witnesses and the police, and said the Police Ombudsman’s report did not take account of, or resolve, the differing evidence.
“I believe it is important to expel confusion. I think the best approach is to refer this back to the Police Ombudsman,” said the coroner.
Announcing a second adjournment, Ms Donnelly said she will write to the ombudsman’s office requesting that the issues are addressed by the watchdog body as a matter of urgency.
Mr Guy, who was known as ‘Foxy’ to friends, worked as a warden at Magilligan Prison for more than 20 years and died less than a mile from his Westland Road home.
The father-of-two was described by those who knew him as a “real character who lived life to the full”.