Man denies having relationship with Melissa Mahon

The jury in the trial of the man accused of murdering 14-year-old Melissa Mahon has heard from another Sligo man who denies that he had a relationship with the girl.

The jury in the trial of the man accused of murdering 14-year-old Melissa Mahon has heard from another Sligo man who denies that he had a relationship with the girl.

Danny Mills told Sean Gillane BL, prosecuting, that he had known Melissa Mahon for three days and she was a friend of a friend, but he denied that he was in a relationship with her.

Ronald McManus (aged 44), also known as Ronnie Dunbar, of Rathbraughan Park, Sligo, has pleaded not guilty to murdering the schoolgirl in September 2006. He also denies threatening to kill his daughter, Samantha Conroy.

Under cross examination by Brendan Grehan SC, defending, Mr Mills said that he had met Melissa on two occasions and had seen gardaí putting her into a squad car on the Caltra estate on a third - and last - occasion.

Mr Mills denied that he was in a house in which gardaí found Melissa in a room with another teenage girl and a number of young men.

He agreed that he had been interviewed by gardaí in relation to whether he had been involved with Melissa. He said he did not know why another teenage female friend of Melissa's would have thought he was Melissa's boyfriend.

On day 15 of the trial, State Pathologist, Professor Marie Cassidy, told the court that following an examination of the human remains found at Lough Gill she was unable to determine a cause of death.

She told Isobel Kennedy SC, prosecuting, that after examining skeletal remains, a sleeping bag and a night dress found at the scene she concluded that the items had not remained in water for the whole time and had been subject to animal damage and exposure to the elements from an early stage.

She said that she found no evidence that a decomposed or partially decomposed body had been in contact with the sleeping bag and concluded that, “a clothed body may have been removed from the sleeping bag and the remains scattered”.

Prof. Cassidy said that she examined skull bone which was extremely weathered and had a lining of green mildew and moss. The other bones, including ribs, arm and leg bones were less weathered but displayed damage consistent with “animal damage”.

Under cross examination Prof. Cassidy said she was not in a position to say what the cause of death was because of the material available to her for examination.

She said that in cases of strangulation, death could be sudden or less immediate depending on the circumstances.

She was asked by Mr Justice Barry White to explain ‘lividity’ to the jury and said that it is a post mortem gravitational effect on the blood in the body.

Thus if a body is lying face up, the underside would be darker than the top as the blood drains towards the ground.

Mr Justice White remarked that an earlier witness had given evidence that she had seen Melissa’s body in a sleeping bag at the side of the River Bonnet and said that half the body appeared purple and half white.

Prof. Cassidy told Mr Grehan that the process of lividity could continue for up to 12 hours and that half an hour after death would be a relatively short period for change to be noticeable.

She also agreed with Mr Grehan that an arm around a neck could cause sudden death if pressure was placed on a sensitive part of the neck and it was possible that such pressure could be applied without an intention to cause harm.

The trial continues before Mr Justice White and a jury of six men and six women. It will continue into next week.

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