A feud between neighbouring traveller families led to a bloody confrontation in which a man was struck down by a van, a court heard.
43-year-old Patrick Maloney died on August 2 last year after being hit by a van and dragged under its wheels halfway across a vacant plot at Toddbury Farm near Little Billington.
The driver of the vehicle, 22-year-old Christopher McCarthy, has pleaded not guilty to Mr Maloney’s murder.
His elder brother, Thomas McCarthy, 24, pleads not guilty to causing actual bodily harm. The trial for both men began yesterday at Luton Crown Court.
Prosecutor Miranda Moore QC said: “It was a deliberate course of the most terrible driving, with the most awful result.”
She stated that the McCarthy family had lived at the Greenacres traveller site for a number of years, while the Maloneys had only moved to the area about three weeks before the incident.
It was stated that soon after moving in, there was a fight between two members of the Maloney and McCarthy families.
Although a truce was agreed, when two of the Maloneys visited the McCarthy plot they claimed to have been met with abuse. Thomas McCarthy allegedly called a Maloney family member on July 31 and told him that he and his family should leave.
Ms Moore said: “Just before 10.30pm on the night of August 2, Thomas McCarthy went to the Maloney plot in his BMW X5. It seems he was intent upon picking a fight with whoever was there. He wasn’t even properly dressed at the time, such was his enthusiasm.”
Ms Moore said that a bare-footed Thomas McCarthy drove two family members with him to Patrick Maloney’s plot at Toddbury Farm, separated from Greenacres by a single field. There, the McCarthys found Patrick Maloney talking to his brother and brother-in-law.
“Thomas’s body language, we say, is very aggressive and threatening,” said Ms Moore. “He comes and faces off Patrick... Patrick eventually pushes Thomas because he is getting in his face.
“When rebuffed by Patrick, Thomas retaliates by punching him in the face – causing Patrick’s nose to bleed and to cause him to fall to the floor.”
Ms Moore added Mr Maloney was a “gentle giant” of 6ft4ins and weighed 20 stone.
She said: “After the punch, the members of the McCarthy family ... run away, in fact leaving behind the BMW.
“The Maloney men having seen what happened to Patrick [and] armed with gardening implements, turn their attention to the BMW left behind. They do their best to trash it.”
It is then that other McCarthy family members arrived in two vehicles, a Volkswagon Golf and a van being driven by Christopher McCarthy – Thomas’s younger brother. Patrick Maloney had also reportedly armed himself with an object by this time.
Ms Moore added: “The Golf is subject to attack and indeed Patrick Maloney bashes the Golf and that would have been seen by Christopher McCarthy driving the van.”
Soon afterwards, the prosecution claim Christopher McCarthy drove straight into Patrick Maloney as the latter stood in front of the wooden gates of a vacant plot.
After the van smashed through the gates, Mr Maloney was reportedly dragged halfway into the plot as the van made a circular motion before leaving through the same exit. Ambulance were called but Mr Maloney was pronounced dead by paramedics at 11.37pm.
After leaving Toddbury Farm, Christopher McCarthy’s van allegedly smashed head-on into one of the Maloneys’ cars. He then reportedly smashed through the metal gates of his own grandparents’ plot in Greenacres.
The next day, the battered van was found abandoned at the car park of New York Diner, some six miles away on Tring Road.
Thomas McCarthy was arrested on the night of August 2 and Christopher McCarthy three days later. In interview, both men alleged Patrick Maloney was the aggressor.
The trial continues.