Manslaughter verdict over traveller’s death

The scene outside Toddbury Farm, Little Billington
The scene outside Toddbury Farm, Little Billington

A traveller whose van hit a 6ft 4ins tall, 20 stone ‘Gentle Giant’ was this afternoon (Monday) found guilty of manslaughter.

Christopher McCarthy, 22, of Greenacres, Little Billington, was cleared by a jury of murdering Patrick Maloney, who died from horrific injuries after being dragged under the van on a vacant plot on a travellers’ site.

Patrick Maloney

Patrick Maloney

When the jury at Luton Crown Court delivered their verdicts, Christopher McCarthy broke down in tears and was hugged in the dock by his brother Thomas, 24, who is 
accused of causing actual bodily harm to Mr Maloney minutes earlier on the same night.

Judge Michael Kay QC discharged the jury in the case of Thomas McCarthy, also from the Greenacres site, after they failed to reach a verdict.

At a sentencing hearing tomorrow (Tuesday) the prosecution will announce whether it seeks a retrial.

The court has heard there was a “simmering feud” between the McCarthy and Maloney families, who lived on the Greenacres and Toddbury Farm sites at Little Billington.

There was bad feelings between the two families after two younger boys had fought over a girl.

Prosecutor Miranda Moore QC told the jury that just before 10.30pm on August 2 last year, Christopher’s brother Thomas McCarthy went to the Maloney’s plot in his BMW X5 to pick a fight.

He struck 43-year-old Patrick Maloney with two punches, causing his nose to bleed, before he and two teenagers ran off.

“He comes up and faces Patrick who is standing outside his own home. Patrick pushes Thomas back because he was getting in his face.

“When rebuffed, Thomas retaliates by punching him in face, causing his nose to bleed and fall to the ground.

“Patrick was 6ft 4ins and 20 stone and described as a gentle giant,” she said.

The BMW that was left behind was then ‘trashed’ by the Maloneys.

It had a brick put through the windscreen and was attacked with garden tools.

Christopher McCarthy, who was asleep in front of the TV, was woken by his wife who told him the Maloneys were killing Thomas.

He drove his roofing van to the plot where it struck Patrick Maloney, a father-of-three.

Ms Moore said: “It hit him and dragged his body along the gravel on a vacant plot before doing a circle movement around the plot and leaving the scene.

“He suffered extensive injuries consistent with being run over and dragged under the vehicle. The van bobs up and down as it goes over Patrick.”

The van, which had damage from hitting two sets of gates and a vehicle belonging to the Maloney family, was found abandoned six miles away the next day at the New York Diner on Tring Road, Eaton Bray.

Christopher McCarthy told the jury he drove his van to where Patrick Maloney lived after being told his brother was being killed.

The father-of-two said: “I shouted ‘Thomas, Thomas!’ I could see his X5 at the bottom of the road.

“There was quite a few people and the back window was smashed.”

Then he said he saw “4, 5 or maybe 6” people standing by a gate and could see weapons. He pulled up next to his brother’s car to see if he was inside. “I was worried, I thought me brother was dead. There was nobody in vehicle.”

In a panic he said he reversed and lost a wing mirror before deciding to turn around in the unoccupied plot.

“I was crying. I was terrified. I was only thinking ‘How am I going to get out of here?’ I was shaking behind the steering wheel.”

He went on: “As I pulled in through the gateway I saw Patrick Maloney to the right of the van, not in the centre.

“I went straight. I swung around and came out.”

His barrister Richard Christie QC asked him: “Did you have intention of hitting him?”

He replied: “I had no intention of hitting him whatsoever”, saying he was not aware he had driven over him.