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Bare-knuckle boxer to claim self-defence at murder trial after street brawl ended in brutal death

Members of the victim’s family are also facing charges following counter-allegations

Joe Joyce and Ellen Joyce

By Tanya Fowles

A bare-knuckle boxer and his wife are to stand trial in respect of their alleged roles in a street brawl during which a man sustained fatal injuries, allegedly caused by a scythe-type device. However due to the nature of the incident, counter-allegations emerged, resulting in charges against members of the victim’s family.

All accused appeared by video-link from their respective lawyer’s offices at Belfast Crown Court today, where it was contended the murder occurred as a result of self-defence.

Joseph Joyce (31) originally from Coolcullen Meadows, Enniskillen, but bailed to reside at Clon Enagh, Derry, is charged with murdering John Paul McDonagh on 11 April 2020 as well as wounding his brother Gerard McDonagh, with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

It is further alleged he was in possession of a curved-bladed device and a bottle of ammonia as offensive weapons.

Ellen Joyce (30) of the same address, is accused of twice assaulting Caroline McDonagh, another member of the victim’s family, as well as possessing a bottle of ammonia as a weapon with intent to commit assault.

Paul McDonagh

In respect of counter-allegations made by Mr and Mrs Joyce against the victim’s family, Gerard Christopher McDonagh (25) from Lisnafin Park, Strabane and a youth, are jointly charged with attempting to inflict grievous bodily harm on Mr Joyce.

Mr McDonagh is further accused of having a spade and a bottle as offensive weapons.

All accused deny the charges against them.

Two other members of the victim’s family are facing charges however these were not put to them during today’s hearing.

A youth is charged with having a knife and encouraging the commission of an offence by handing a spade to Mr McDonagh.

Finally, Caroline McDonagh (25) from Meelmore Drive, Omagh is accused of assaulting Mrs Joyce.

The cases of them have been adjourned.

Mr Justice O’Hara remanded all defendants on strict bail and listed all matters for mention on 29 November.

When the case first came to court last year a detective advised Mr Joyce accepted having a scythe-type device (also described in court as a weed-cutter or a slash hook) because he, “Genuinely feared for his life”.

'Big' Joseph Joyce has been charged with murdering Mr Paul McDonagh on 11 April 2020

The victim was struck to the back of his leg with the device severely injuring a vital artery. Police carried out CPR at the scene before paramedics took over.

He suffered three cardiac arrests while undergoing treatment at South West Acute Hospital where his condition became “critical and unstable.”

A decision was taken to amputate the badly injured leg above the knee to save Mr McDonagh’s life.

However, his condition deteriorated and he passed away.

While Joyce travelled to Cavan in the aftermath, he later handed himself in, expressing “Deep regret that John McDonagh died.”

It was claimed he acted in self-defence and, “Didn’t intend to kill, or cause serious injury and is sincerely sorry for the loss to the McDonagh family.”

The entire incident was captured on CCTV and mobile phones with the detective describing it as, “Very violent … It was only going to end in serious injury or death.”

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