Soldier ‘murdered’ after night on town

Cpl Geoffrey McNeill
Cpl Geoffrey McNeill
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A soldier was violently and brutally beaten to death by a colleague at a Shropshire Army barracks after a drunken night out, a jury was told.

Lance Corporal Richard Farrell, 23, a serving soldier with The Royal Irish Regiment, is accused of murdering 32-year-old Corporal Geoffrey McNeill, of North Shore, whose body was discovered at Clive Barracks in Tern Hill, near Market Drayton, on March 8.

Prosecuting at Birmingham Crown Court yesterday, Christopher Hotten, said: “Sometime between 4am and 6am on March 8 this year Geoffrey McNeill was violently and brutally attacked.

“His attacker inflicted heavy blows to his head and stomach. But the ultimate cause of death was pressure to the neck.”

Mr Hotten added: “We say Cpl McNeill was murdered.

“He was attacked and his attacker caused his injuries unlawfully – there was no lawful excuse for the attack or the injuries inflicted.

“The attacker intended, at the very least, to cause Geoffrey McNeill really serious injury and he died as a result of those injuries.”

Mr Hotten said the neck injuries were significant and there were fractures to three bones in Cpl McNeill’s neck.

“The murder took place in the room Geoffrey McNeill occupied in the barracks,” said Mr Hotten.

On the night of Friday, March 7, a number of soldiers at the barracks had gone to either Market Drayton or Shrewsbury on a night out.

Farrell, who has denied murder, had been drinking Disaronno, an amaretto liquor, which he had brought from a nearby shop, while Cpl McNeill, who was born in Ballymoney in Northern Ireland, had drunk four cans of lager, in a different location on the barracks to Farrell.

Neither of the men knew each other, beyond professionally, and were in different companies within the 1st Battalion Royal Irish at the barracks, a jury heard.

In the early hours of March 8 Cpl McNeill and Farrell had met in the Sandbrook Vaults pub on Shropshire Street where they interacted on a number of occasions in the bar and smoking area in a friendly way.

But this had changed by 2.25am when Cpl McNeill punched Farrell to the floor in the bar for what was said to be “trapping off” and Farrell was escorted off the premises by the landlord. By 2.40am Cpl McNeill had left the pub and got in a taxi.

Farrell managed to get a lift back from Market Drayton with a passing woman he mistook for a taxi.

She drove him back to the barracks and he arrived just minutes before Cpl McNeill arrived back at 3am.

Nothing was seen of Farrell after he disappeared from sight shortly before 3am on his own until 6.30am the next morning.

Cpl McNeill was last seen at 3.55am by the block entrance to his accommodation in Block B. A neighbour of Cpl McNeill heard groaning and the sound of someone bashing into furniture, but locked his door and went back to bed.

At about 9am Farrell went to see Cpl McNeill at his dorm in Block B to apologise, but found his body there where he was on the floor in his underpants.

Mr Hotten said Farrell told police he had tried to resuscitate him.

He said he had tried his neck feeling for a pulse.

By this point Farrell had washed his clothes and got changed.

On the left sleeve of his shirt Mr Hotten said there was blood matching to Cpl McNeill.

The trial is expected to last four weeks.