Weapons confiscated at Strabane funeral bought for occasion

Knives, hachetes and hatchets seized by police after disturbance appear new, court told

The hatchets, machetes and Stanley knives seized by police following a disturbance at a funeral in Co Tyrone on Thursday appeared to be new and bought for the event, a court has been told.

District judge Barney McElholm said it was a “disgraceful incident” and as far as he knew one group had been attending the funeral and was attacked by another.

Had it not been for the “prompt action of the police, there could have been a blood bath”, he said.

Police were in attendance at the funeral at St Mary's Church on Melmount Road in Strabane due to public order concerns at what police and local sources said was a Traveller funeral.


The weapons, which included 13 hatchets, were seized after the disorder broke out. Three males aged 17, 22 and 32 were arrested and appeared before Derry’s magistrates’ court on Friday.

John Anthony Doherty (32) with an address at Riverside Caravan Park in Queensbury, Wales, pleaded guilty to possession of a Stanley knife and cocaine, as well as driving without insurance or L plates.

The court was told police stopped several vehicles, including one driven by Doherty, and found him in possession of a Stanley knife and a small quantity of cocaine. He was also driving without insurance and L-plates.

At interview, he said the knife was for repairing fences and he had forgotten it was there.

Doherty was sentenced to five months imprisonment suspended for three years. He was also fined £425 (€493) and disqualified from driving for 12 months.

Also before the court was 22-year-old Gerry Stokes of Kearney Villas in Gulladuff, Co Derry, who was charged with the possession of a meat cleaver.

A police officer told the court that at about 11.30am on Thursday the defendant was seen in the car park of the church discarding a meat cleaver under a parked vehicle.

When police questioned him, he said he had taken it from another person but refused to say who and said he was getting rid of it in case someone got hurt.

A defence solicitor said his client claimed the weapon was a barley thresher. The judge remarked that there was a lot of barley in Strabane main street.

The solicitor said his client had been at the funeral and heard the commotion outside which he felt was disrespectful.

He added that Stokes had gone out, seen someone with the weapon and took it off him in case someone got hurt. And there was no suggestion Stokes was brandishing it.

Axes for ‘gardening business’

Mr McElholm said while the claims were “plausible” it was clear “some people came armed to do serious harm to others”.

Stokes was sentenced to three months imprisonment suspended for 12 months.

The 17-year-old, who cannot be identified because of his age, was charged with two counts of possessing an axe.

A police officer told the court the youth was the passenger in a car which was stopped and a holdall containing the axes was found at his feet.

The 17-year-old said his father had bought the axes in order to start a gardening business. He was released on bail and his case was adjourned until March 20th.

A fourth man, 18-year-old Thomas Scully from Donegal Road in Ballybofey, Co Donegal, appeared in court charged with being disorderly in Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry, possessing a knife and possessing a screwdriver early on Thursday morning.

The court was told he had been due to attend the funeral, but had been arrested beforehand.

He told police the screwdriver was for repairing kitchen cabinets but the knife just happened to be in the pocket of a jacket he had borrowed.

He was sentenced to three months in prison suspended for two years.