A 19-year-old man has admitted attacking an autistic Lisburn teenager who was beaten and left for dead in a disused furniture showroom.
Ryan Craig, from Ashmount Gardens in Lisburn, appeared at Craigavon Crown Court, where he initially faced a charge of attempting to murder Scott Vineer.
Craig denied the charge and was about to stand trial for attempted murder. However, he was rearraigned on a charge of causing grievous bodily harm to Mr Vineer with intent, on a date between September 5 and 8, 2012.
When this charge was put to Craig, he replied “guilty”. Prosecuting barrister Ian Tannahill said that in light of the plea, the Crown was no longer proceeding with the attempted murder charge.
The admission of his role in the attack was made as Craig stood in the dock, just yards from where Mr Vineer, 20, sat in the public gallery with mother Helen-Louise and stepfather Paul.
Mr Vineer – who was 17 at the time of the attack which left him in a coma – attended yesterday’s hearing with the aid of two crutches. Following the attack, Mr Vineer spent six months in hospital.
Although no details of the incident were revealed during yesterday’s brief hearing, Mr Vineer – who at the time was a student at the South Eastern Regional College – was attacked as he made his way home from college.
Mr Vineer was beaten and left for dead close to the towpath at the rear of the empty World of Furniture store on Laganbank Road.
His failure to return home from college on September 6, 2012 sparked a manhunt, which resulted in the teenager being found with serious head wounds and brain injuries.
He was found by a dog handler in the disused showroom on the evening of Friday September 7.
When a request was made by defence barrister Gavan Duffy that Craig be released on continuing bail ahead of sentencing in August, which he acknowledged was likely to result in a prison sentence, Mr Tannahill said that while the PSNI had no objections, the Vineer family “remain in fear and are very concerned that the change in status may result in difficulties for them”.
This prompted Judge Patrick Lynch QC to assure the family that given Craig’s plea, it would be to his detriment if he tried to contact either Mr Vineer or his family “in any shape or form”. This, the judge warned, could lead to Craig’s bail being revoked.
The court was told that ahead of sentencing, a number of reports will be submitted to the court. These include a pre-sentence report compiled by the Probation Board on Craig, as well as victim impact reports and a medical report on Mr Vineer’s health.
Craig will be sentenced for the attack at Craigavon Crown Court on Friday August 28.
Following Craig’s plea, the jury which was sworn in to preside over the attempted murder trial on Monday was brought back into court.
Judge Lynch informed them that in light of Craig’s plea to causing Mr Vineer grievous bodily harm with intent “in these circumstances, there is no trial”.