Northern Ireland

Bodybuilder Darren Casey jailed for Owen McKeown manslaughter

Owen McKeown's body was found in the River Bann Image copyright PACEMAKER
Image caption Owen McKeown's body was found in the River Bann

A bodybuilder, who put his own life in danger trying to save a drowning man he had earlier assaulted, has been jailed for nine months.

A judge told Darren Joseph Casey, 26, his was a "highly exceptional case".

He said the death of Owen Gerard McKeown, 21, "was the tragic result of his own decision to jump into the River Bann".

Casey, from Claragh Hill Grange, Kilrea, admitted the manslaughter of Mr McKeown, on 5 May 2012.

He was initially sentenced to 15 months, added to a previous three-month suspended term. He will serve half of his sentence in prison, with the remainder on parole. He could be due for release in a month.

The judge said Mr McKeown died because he ran "no doubt in fear of further assault" and jumped into the river.

Earlier in December, a prosecuting lawyer told the court Casey had stripped off and jumped into the river after Nr McKeown.

While it was accepted that he did not intend his death, by an unlawful act of striking Mr McKeown, and his guilty plea to manslaughter, he accepted responsibility for it.

A defence lawyer said it was a tragic and unfortunate case, in which a remorseful Casey had put his own life in danger.

He said Mr McKeown, had travelled to Kilrea from Ballymena with Casey to get steroid drugs that both men used as part of their body-building regime.

As they were climbing over a fence, Mr McKeown allegedly struck Casey, who punched him to the ground, where he continued his attack.

He said a group of canoeists saw a fully-clothed man jump into the river.

Image caption Volunteers searched for Mr McKeown's body.

"He swam out from the bank, and then disappeared under the water. Another male then stripped off his clothing and also entered the water in an apparent attempt to rescue the first male," the lawyer said.

Unable to save Mr McKeown, Casey returned to the bank, dressed and drove off.

A post-mortem report on Mr McKeown, whose cause of death was drowning, also indicated that he may well have been under the influence of drugs.

The lawyer said Casey's version of events could be independently corroborated by statements from two men who had travelled from Ballymena with him.

The lawyer said Casey had shown genuine, sincere and deep remorse, and had later gone with his father to police, "to do the right thing".

He was so extremely upset at the death of Mr McKeown, that he could not be properly interviewed and was admitted to hospital for a time.

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