Traveller families 'in 15-year feud'

A murder trial of five men accused of killing a man at family funeral has heard that a feud allegedly existed between two Traveller families after a bare knuckle fight in London 15 years ago.

Defence counsel, Mr Fergal Kavanagh SC, acting on behalf of Mr Martin "Hitler Bumbee" McDonagh Sr, suggested to the accused’s cousin, Mr Patrick "Jaws" Ward Jr that there was a "bigger picture to the clash".

"Behind the scenes," Mr Kavanagh SC said, there was a "power play between the Ward and McDonagh family".

"I had no argument with the McDonaghs," Mr "Jaws" Ward Jr told the jury.

Five men have pleaded not guilty to the murder of Mr Patrick "Deuce" Ward in May 1999 at Carrownanty Cemetery in Ballymote, Co Sligo.

Mr Michael "Hitler Bumbee" McDonagh Sr (aged 58), Mr Martin "Bumbee" McDonagh Sr (aged 53), Mr Michael McDonagh Jr (aged 29), Mr Patrick McDonagh (aged 33) and Mr Martin "Spider Bumbee" McDonagh Jr (aged 26) from Hertfordshire in London have all denied the murder of Mr Ward.

Mr "Deuce" Ward (aged 38), a father of six originally from Galway but resident in Manchester, had travelled to Ireland for the funeral of his uncle, also Patrick Ward, in Ballymote, Co Sligo on May 10 1999 when he was fatally shot.

The five have also pleaded not guilty to the possession of a firearm with the intent to endanger life.

They have also denied the attempted murder of Mr Patrick "Jaws" Ward Sr, Mr Patrick "Jaws" Ward Jr and Mr Edward "Ned" Ward on the same occasion.

The accused men also pleaded not guilty to causing violent disorder on the same date.

Under cross examination, Mr Kavanagh SC asked Mr "Jaws" Ward Jr if he knew the origins of the feud, to which he replied: "I’ve no idea. You would be better asking your client, Hitler, all about this."

Mr Kavanagh SC asked Mr "Jaws" Ward Jr if he had fought as a heavyweight boxer in 1989, to which he replied: "I was boxing then."

Mr Michael "Hitler Bumbee" McDonagh asked him if he remembered attending a boxing match in London between Bernie "The Boxer" Ward and Tom McDonagh. "I was a young fella. I was brought to watch it. I don’t get involved in fights," Mr "Jaws" Ward Jr said.

The witness was then asked if it was a bare-knuckle fight, to which Mr "Jaws" Ward Jr said: "It was just a fight."

"It takes place every day in the travelling community. It’s a way of sorting out problems. After it’s over they shake hands," Mr "Jaws" Ward Jr told the jury.

Defence counsel for Mr "Hitler Bumbee" McDonagh Sr then asked the witness if it was true that the fight in 1989 had a wager of stg£20,000 on it, to which Mr "Jaws" Ward Jr replied: "No. I did not hear that."

Tom McDonagh, Mr Kavangh SC claimed, was accused in 1989 of not boxing within the rules and told that that it was an unfair fight.

"I don’t believe any money was involved. If two men go out to fight and if one gets beat, he gets beat and that’s it," Mr "Jaws" Ward jnr said.

"I know nothing about this. I was a kid at the time. Your client went out and boxed that night," Mr "Jaws" Ward jnr told Mr Kavanagh SC under cross examination. "All Travellers have arguments," he added.

Mr Kavanagh SC suggested to Mr "Jaws" Ward Jr that he wanted to see the McDonagh family "done down" and end up in prison. The defence counsel went on to suggest to the witness that it is "incorrect what you saw Mr Michael McDonagh Sr doing" on the day of the fatal shooting.

"I saw Michael McDonagh Sr give the orders to kill," Mr "Jaws" Ward Jr said.

But Mr Kavanagh asserted: "You are unable to say what he was wearing."

"I know Bumbee Michael Sr well. A year before that I was drinking tea in his caravan in Manorhamilton."

Mr Kavanagh SC asked Mr "Jaws" Ward why he referred to Mr Michael McDonagh Sr as "Hitler" in his first statement to Gardaí.

"I didn’t want the police to be looking for a German. That’s why I gave him his full title, Michael McDonagh Sr," Mr "Jaws" Ward Jr told the jury.

Mr "Jaws" Ward Jr told the jury that the 150-strong crowd that allegedly surrounded him and his father outside a cemetery was "well-organised. Every man in the crowd knew exactly what to do."

Mr Patrick "Jaws" Ward Jr said under cross examination that when he arrived with his wife and his father at the cemetery for a family funeral, they were met by a crowd of 150 McDonaghs

"When we got out of the van, they were standing still and we kept walking," Mr "Jaws" Ward Jr said.

"My father shouted out to Bumbee Michael Hitler. He wanted to speak to him but Hitler didn’t answer," he said.

Mr "Jaws" Ward Jr told the jury they were still advancing forward when the accused, Mr Michael "Bumbee Hitler" McDonagh Sr said: "Shoot them. Shoot them. Kill them."

Mr "Jaws" Ward Jr said under cross-examination that he picked up a slash hook that was on the side of the road as he walked towards the assembled crowd of McDonaghs.

The witness told the jury that the reason he didn’t turn his back on the assembled crowd was: "I knew if I turned my back on them they would have shot me in the back and that’s what happened to Patrick "Deuce" Ward."

The trial continues before Mr Iarfhlaith O’Neill.

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