Northern Ireland

Pair plea to sub-zero death role

Scales of Justice

Two men whose companion died from hypothermia after they dumped him from a car in sub-zero temperatures have pleaded guilty to his manslaughter.

Gregory Woods, 41, from Castledawson was found on a track off the Glenshane Pass by his brother who was helping to search for him.

The defendants are Dean Porter, 42 of Ballynahone Road and Niall Regan, 31, from Largantogher Park, both Maghera.

They will be sentenced at Londonderry Crown Court next week.

'Slabber'

He was the third member of his family to die in tragic circumstances.

His brother Michael died in a road accident seven years ago and his father Roland took his own life after that.

A prosecution lawyer said while the accused and Mr Woods were not friends, they regularly ended up drinking together.

There had been reports of tensions between them, he said, and claims that Mr Woods was "going to get a beating because he's a slabber."

Regan also told a former girlfriend that Mr Woods had been spreading rumours.

The lawyer said that on February 3, 2008 the three men had been drinking together at a house in Maghera and the two accused drove Mr Woods to a forest path off the Glenshane Pass where they put him out of the car.

There were reports, he said, that Mr Woods was assaulted but a post mortem revealed no evidence of any significant injuries that had played a part in his death.

The lawyer added that the post mortem examination established that Mr Woods died from hypothermia having been abandoned in temperatures which had fallen to minus three degrees in an area where no-one would have found him by chance.

The post mortem examination, he said, also revealed that the high level of alcohol consumed by Mr Woods had also been a contributory factor.

'Drunken enterprise'

The court was told that Regan had rung police to express his concerns for Mr Woods but an initial search found nothing and his body was not discovered until February 5.

Regan claimed to police that he had driven Mr Woods to Glenshane after Porter threatened him.

A lawyer for Porter said he wanted to express his remorse for what he called "a drunken enterprise."

Regan's lawyer said his client had shown his concern for Mr Woods after he was abandoned at Glenshane by making telephone calls but he accepted he could and should have done more.

Mr Justice Hart was told that both defendants had had "chaotic lifestyles", with Porter having a drink problem and Regan having abused butane gas.

Pre-sentence reports also suggested there was a high risk the two men would re-offend.

Porter appeared in court with his left hand bandaged and cuts to his face.

The court heard he had fallen off a scrambler motorbike after a barbecue nearly two weeks ago, having breached a condition of his bail not to consume alcohol.

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