Eddie Meenan: Man found guilty of ‘brutal and savage’ murder of Derry father-of-nine
A 34-year old man has been convicted by a jury of the “brutal and savage” murder of Derry father-of-nine Eddie Meenan.
The seven week trial finally concluded when the jury – who spent just under ten hours deliberating – returned a guilty verdict against Sean Ciaran Joseph Rodgers, of no fixed abode.
Despite his claims that he was acting in self-defence and didn’t mean to kill Mr Meenan, Rodgers was convicted by a unanimous decision of murdering the 52-year old.
A second man, 22-year old Ryan Walters from Station Road in Crossgar, was found not guilty of murder, but found unanimously guilty of the manslaughter of Mr Meenan.
The deceased and his friend Billy McConnell arrived at the rear of a property in the Creggan Street area of Derry in the early hours of November 25th, 2018.
Three occupants in the property saw the two masked men at the back door and a confrontation broke out in the rear garden.
Whilst Mr McConnell was attacked with a bat but managed to flee the scene, Mr Meenan was beaten in an attack branded as “brutal and savage” by the Crown.
After he was beaten and stabbed over 50 times, Mr Meenan was then stripped and dumped in an alleyway to the rear of Creggan Street.
Rodgers, Walters and a third man – Derek William Creswell (29) of Kings Lane in Ballykelly – were all arrested in the aftermath of the murder.
Whilst all three accepted being at the property when the murderous assault was carried out, they each denied initially involvement.
A trial at Derry Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, commenced at the end of January with all three accused standing trial for murder.
The trio also denied wounding Mr Meenan’s friend William McConnell, while Creswell and Walters denied perverting the course of justice by burning evidence including bloodied clothing in the aftermath of the murder – a charge admitted by Rodgers.
During the third week of the hearing, Creswell’s barrister Gavan Duffy QC asked that his client be re-arraigned, and he entered guilty pleas to all three charges.
As the trial progressed, both Rodgers and Walters took to the witness stand with each man providing an account of what happened to the jury.
Rodgers claimed that after seeing masked men at the back door and fearing it was the IRA, he launched a counter-attack.
The accused said he attacked Mr Meenan with his feet and fists, denied using weapons and denied stabbing the deceased. Rodgers also denied involvement in the attack on Mr McConnell.
Today, when the foreman of the jury was asked by a court clerk if they had reached a decision on the murder charge against Rodgers on which they were all agreed, he replied they had and returned a ‘guilty’ verdict.
He was acquitted on a charge of wounding Mr McConnell.
Walters also gave evidence and claimed that whilst he attacked Mr McConnell, he didn’t play any part in the fatal assault on Mr Meenan and adamantly denied using a knife.
The foreman was then asked if they had reached a verdict on which they were all agreed on the murder charge against Walters
After replying ‘yes’, the foreman continued ‘not guilty to murder, guilty to manslaughter.’ Walters was also convicted of perverting the course of justice and of wounding Mr McConnell.
Before the jury passed their verdict, Judge Donna McColgan QC said that while she appreciated it was “very emotional for everyone”, she asked for the “utmost decorum” in her courtroom.
After returning their verdicts, the Judge thanked the jury for presiding over a “harrowing and difficult case” and excused them from further jury service for life.
She told the ten remaining members: “You have possibly been one of the most attentive juries I have ever come across either in my career at the Bar or on the bench.”
Turning to the two defendants, Judge McColgan told Rodgers to stand and said: “You have been found guilty by a jury in respect of the murder charge. The only sentence that I can impose is life imprisonment.”
She informed Rodgers that “the next stage for you will be the Tariff hearing”, but told him that as he and his legal team parted ways during the trial, he would need legal representation for this.
After also imposing a life sentence on Creswell – who is currently on remand in Maghaberry – Judge McColgan said she would review the case on March 23rd.
She expressed the hope that by that stage Rodgers will have secured legal representation, and said she would set a day for the tariff hearings and the sentencing of Walters on March 23rd.
A fourth defendant – Sinead Martina White from St Brecans Park in Derry – admitted a charge withholding information regarding the murder
A cousin of the deceased, the 38-year old lived at the property where Mr Meenan was murdered. Last November, she admitted failing to provide information to police about what happened at her home and will be sentenced with her three co-accused.
As Rodgers was being led from the dock and into custody, the Meenan family – who have attended every day of the trial – clapped. The convicted murderer reacted by turning round and giving them the finger.