Carnlough man found guilty of machete attack on doorman in Ballyclare

A County Antrim father-of-one was today warned he faces a '˜lengthy custodial sentence' after he was found guilty of attacking a doorman with a machete.

Tuesday, 13th December 2016, 4:57 pm
Updated Wednesday, 14th December 2016, 2:29 pm

Simon Esler, from Waterfall Road in Carnlough, was told there was ‘no question’ he will be sent to prison after a jury at Belfast Crown Court found him unanimously guilty of wounding the doorman with intent to cause him grievous bodily harm, and of possessing an offensive weapon in a public place.

The 27-year old was charged with attacking the other man with the machete outside Ballyclare Comrades Football Club, situated on The Square in the Newtownabbey town, on June 20 last year.

Despite denying he was the attacker, and claiming that he knew nothing about the incident, the jury of seven women and five men took several hours to reach verdicts on the two charges and found Esler guilty.

As the verdicts were read, the injured man hugged a female relative in the public gallery, whilst Esler’s relatives wept.

After Esler was convicted by the jury, his barrister, Richard McConkey, asked that pre-sentence reports be compiled. Mr McConkey also requested Esler be released on bail, ahead of sentencing.

The defence barrister said that whilst he accepted his client will be jailed, he asked for contining bail. Mr McConkey said: “Mr Esler and his family are well aware of the sentence that is likely to be imposed. He has been on bail for 18 months without incident. He is in full-time employment and has a child.”

Judge Patricia Smyth, who presided over the trial, agreed to grant bail ahead of sentencing, telling Esler: “There is no question you will be facing a custodial sentence, and it will be a lengthy custodial sentence.”

Judge Smyth then informed Esler he will be sentenced for the two offences on February 7, 2017.

During the trial, the jury heard that on the evening in question the doorman was attacked by a man who got out of a blue Volkwagen Passat brandishing a long-bladed weapon. The man targeted the doorman and shouted “you were in my house and you pointed a gun at my pregnant wife” before lashing out with the machete.

The doorman was slashed at least three times and sustained wounds to his arm, abdomen and thigh, as well as an undisplaced fracture to his forearm. The wounds were dealt with by paper stitches.

The doorman later identified Esler as his attacker.

The court heard that whilst this attack was taking place, an entertainer who had been peforming in the football club that night was outside having a smoke. He saw the incident and noted the Passat’s registration. When he later gave this to police, he told officers he wasn’t sure he recalled it correctly and may have got some of the digits muddled up.

When police checked the number he gave them, it was not registered to any vehicle. However, when police switched two of the numbers around, they discovered the plate was registered to a blue Passat belonging to Esler. The vehicle was later recovered by officers parked up at outbuildings a short distance from his mother’s house.

During the trial, the jury also heard that eight months before the machete attack, Esler went to the PSNI to report a home invasion. In a statement made to police, Esler and his partner, who was pregnant at the time, said masked men had forced their way into their home and that a gun was pointed at her.

Despite his denials that he had nothing to do with last summer’s machete attack and knew nothing about it, his version of events was rejected by the jury, who convicted him of both possessing the weapon and attacking the doorman.