PSNI examines footage of assaults
The senior PSNI officer investigating the murder of Monaghan student Jason McGovern has stated that police are now “identifying a number of people” who were involved in the assaults that killed him.
PSNI detectives are trawling through CCTV footage to try to establish who was responsible for the two assaults that led to the murder of 19-year-old Mr McGovern, from Tydavnet, Co Monaghan. Gardaí are helping with the investigation.
Det Chief Insp Richard Harkness said at a press conference in Omagh yesterday that police were now treating the death of Mr McGovern as a murder inquiry and were “identifying a number of people who were involved in the altercation”.
He made a direct appeal to those involved in the assaults on Mr McGovern, who had been on a night out with friends in Omagh on Sunday night. “Don’t delay, come forward. There are two sides to every story. I want to establish the facts. If you were involved, come forward to detectives in Omagh and we will interview you to establish the facts,” he said.
The murder happened just a day after the PSNI repeated its Christmas “One Punch” campaign warning. On Saturday Det Chief Insp Karen Baxter, ahead of the New Year celebrations, reiterated how since 2004 some 20 people had died in Northern Ireland as a result of such incidents. Now that number has risen to 21.
In Omagh yesterday Det Chief Insp Harkness said the incident was consistent with this series of “one-punch” fatalities in Northern Ireland. “This is an assault that had no apparent motive other than young men out on a night out and fuelled by alcohol,” he said.
The officer outlined how Mr McGovern and a small group of friends travelled from Co Monaghan by taxi for a night out in Omagh on Sunday. The group became separated during the night but shortly before 2am Mr McGovern and a friend were outside the Terrace Bar when they encountered a group of about five men.
Police said a “verbal exchange took place” after which “punches were thrown and Mr McGovern was struck several times in the head and upper body”.
“He and his friend then moved away down Kevlin Road towards the taxi that was waiting for them at another public house, the Weigh Inn. They were followed by at least three of the original group of five males,” police added.
“At the Weigh Inn car park, Mr McGovern was confronted by a man from the initial group and was struck once more in the face and collapsed to the ground. He was assisted into the taxi by two men who had not been part of either fracas, but may have witnessed the incident at the Weigh Inn,” they said.
Mr McGovern managed to get back to a friend’s house near Emyvale, Co Monaghan, but was discovered dead the following day, New Year’s Eve, about noon.
Det Chief Insp Harkness said police were particularly keen to speak to a man in his mid-20s, about 5 ft 4 ins (1.63m) tall and of stocky build. He was wearing a white T-shirt and was involved in the incident outside the Weigh Inn.
He also appealed to the two middle-aged men who assisted Mr McGovern into the taxi to come forward, while stressing that they were not being linked to the assault.
Friends said Mr McGovern’s mother, Kathleen, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, father, Séamus, and brothers, Jonathan and Niall, were “devastated” by his death.
A drama student in Sligo, the dead man was described by several who knew him as a “very caring, pleasant and outgoing” individual. Canon Macartan McQuaid said he was a minister of the Eucharist and that he regularly drove his grandmother to Saturday Mass in her local church.