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Could Pat Ward’s horrific murder in Clogher been prevented?

Police Officer's warning in court was to prove tragically prophetic

Pat Ward

Last month a thirty-seven-year-old woman was found guilty of the manslaughter of Pat Ward and awaits sentencing as does her partner who admitted murder.

Unknown until now however was a situation in the days beforehand, when police sought to have the partner remanded in custody warning “it’s only a matter of time before he kills someone”.

Within days he did just that.

Having stood trial for murder, Karen Marie McDonald from McCrea Park, Clogher denied this and subsequent alternative charges of manslaughter and assisting an offender, insisting she did nothing wrong and intended the victim no harm.

Her partner Niall Cox (27) also denied murder but later changed his plea, leaving McDonald to stand trial alone.

The victim’s lifeless, half-naked body man was discovered in an alleyway having been dragged there by Cox from McDonald’s home where a brutal attack had taken place.

CCTV captured Cox dragging Mr Ward by his arms from McDonald’s before abandoning him in the alleyway where he was discovered by a couple walking to work.

McDonald carried his legs a short distance before dropping them and returning indoors.

Pathologist Professor Jack Crane said Mr Ward was “beaten, kicked, stabbed and struck a number of times to the head with a heavy, blunt elongated object … extensive blood loss, combined with the head and chest injuries were responsible for rapid but not immediate death”.

It is believed a number of weapons were used including a machete and a barbell.

The shocking details of what went on in her house that night are still not clear with only McDonald’s version of events to date disclosed during the two week trial at Dungannon Crown Court.

As the couple await sentencing, questions are being asked as to whether Mr Ward’s death could have been prevented.

What wasn’t known throughout the four years since Mr Ward’s horrific murder, was what occurred in the days immediately beforehand.

Cox was known to police as a violent offender and was already on strict bail for unrelated but serious charges including unlawful and malicious wounding from an incident in September 2018.

On 6 February 2019 police arrested him for an alleged breach of bail, bringing him before a sitting of Enniskillen Magistrates Court

A police officer set out the nature of the breach and highlighted Cox’s propensity for highly violent offending, alluding to the matter for which he was on bail.

She told the court, “Police do not feel managed in the community. The level of violence is increasing.”

However a defence lawyer insisted Cox suffered from mental health and addiction issues and remanding him in custody would not be conducive to him accessing assistance.

The judge decided to release Cox and reminded him of the bail terms which included a strict curfew.

A further condition was added which required him to attend with his GP within 48 to seek a referral for mental health support services.

In an impassioned plea, the police officer repeated her concerns, but was unable to change the judge’s view.

Her final comment, “It’s only a matter of time before he kills someone” was tragically prophetic because just three days later Cox did exactly that.

When asked to comment, a PSNI spokesperson said, “On 6 February 2019 Niall Cox did appear in Enniskillen Magistrates Court for a bail application in connection with a previous significant offence. Police were in attendance at the court and bail was strenuously opposed along a number of themes. Bail was granted by the court and this is a matter for the court and the court alone.”

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