Murder trial soldier ‘tried to save’ dead man

Murder trial: Cpl Geoffrey McNeill's body was found in his room at Clive Barracks, Tern Hill, Shropshire, below
Murder trial: Cpl Geoffrey McNeill's body was found in his room at Clive Barracks, Tern Hill, Shropshire, below
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A soldier accused of murdering a corporal from North Shore has told a jury how he panicked when he found the body at their barracks.

Taking the stand at Birmingham Crown Court yesterday, Lance Corporal Richard Farrell, 23, who is accused of murdering Cpl Geoffrey McNeill on March 8, at Clive Barracks, in Tern Hill, Shropshire, gave his evidence to the jury.

Cpl McNeill was found dead in his room at the barracks.

The jury was told earlier that Cpl McNeill and Farrell had argued when they met on a night out and had come to blows.

In the weeks leading up to Cpl McNeill’s death, Farrell said he had been training to be a full Corporal, and was due to take part in his final exercise on Sunday, March 9.

He said he had gone out for a drink as a “celebration” for nearly finishing the course.

He said he had drunk at least a litre of Amaretto liqueur in his room, before heading into nearby Market Drayton with comrades on March 7.

Stephen Linehan, defending, asked Farrell whether he had a memory of the night in terms of which pub he had gone to, or how much he had drunk.

“Not at all,” he replied.

Farrell said he had a “black” until he woke up the next morning in the barracks guardroom, where he said he was “embarrassed” to be in that drunken state.

After speaking to his girlfriend, having a shower and washing his clothes, he said he then started to remember seeing Cpl McNeill and another soldier, who cannot be named for legal reasons – and, after noticing the cut on his lip, assumed he had been punched.

He set about trying to find Cpl McNeill, and eventually found his door.

“He was on the floor. He was underneath the bed to about his shoulders,” said Farrell. “This is going to sound stupid, but I laughed as I thought he was asleep on the floor.

“I saw his face was blue and thought straight away, right I’ve got to do something.”

Farrell said he pulled Cpl McNeill from under the bed and started to try to revive him, including the kiss of life and chest compressions.

Farrell, who denies murder, said he did not use his phone or call for help in other rooms, but went to the guards’ room to see if they could help.

He said: “I’m an idiot, I should have used my phone.

“There are a lot of things I should have done. I just panicked.”

He said he had panicked like this before when he was on tour in Afghanistan and his gun jammed. Farrell said he wished he could remember more about the night.

Asked if he had tried to recall events, Farrell said: “Yes, you wouldn’t believe the amount of times I have tried.

“Just constantly thinking and thinking, it drives you insane.”

Born in Ballymoney Northern Ireland, Cpl McNeill moved to Blackpool as a teenager and has family in South Shore.