In the early hours of February 9, 2019, Pat Ward’s badly beaten and half naked body was dragged out of a house in Clogher and left in an alleyway.

It was taken there by Niall Cox after a brutal and sustained attack in the house that he shared with Karen McDonald.

CCTV captured Cox dragging Mr. Ward’s body. McDonald is also seen carrying Mr. Ward’s legs before dropping them and going back into the house.

Mr. Ward had gone to the house to socialise with the pair but what happened over the remaining hours of his life has left four children without a father and a wife without a husband.

People who had been socialising with Mr. Ward the night before described him as being in good form before he made his way to McDonald’s home as others left for theirs.

While Mr. Ward was meant to be socialising in McDonald’s home with Cox, his wife, Ellie, became anxious as he did not answer calls to his phone.

At around 4.40am, CCTV shows Mrs. Ward walking around the area looking for him.

90 minutes later, CCTV would capture Cox dragging Mr. Ward from the house.

Mrs. Ward even called at McDonald’s home asking for her husband but Cox told her he was not there. She knew this was false. McDonald told an anxious Mrs. Ward that her husband had taken a taxi into Enniskillen.

The events of that tragic night are still not clear as only McDonald’s version was heard during her trial.


According to McDonald during her trial she claimed after Mrs. Ward had left Mr. Ward had leaned down to her and she thought he was trying to kiss her.

Cox saw this and the fighting began McDonald claimed with Cox getting the better of Mr. Ward as she ran upstairs.

On returning downstairs, McDonald said Mr. Ward was sitting against a wall with blood coming from his head.

After a while, Cox dragged Mr. Ward’s body out of the house, helped for a short time by McDonald.

Throughout her evidence, McDonald claimed she helped Cox out of fear of what he would do to her.

She described a relationship mired in domestic violence in which Cox was very violent towards her.

The following morning, a neighbour received a call to say there was a dead body in the alleyway. He saw Mr. Ward lying on the ground before police and ambulance arrived.

News about the CCTV footage of Mr. Ward’s body being dragged from the house to the alleyway emerged and would later emerge on social media.

The sickening footage adding to the grief and anguish of Mr. Ward’s family.

He suffered extensive blood loss which, combined with head and chest injuries, caused his rapid, but not immediate death according to Professor Jack Crane, who carried out the post-mortem on Mr. Ward.

The victim was beaten, kicked, stabbed and struck on the head with a heavy, blunt elongated object.

There were abrasions to his face, a tooth was knocked out, bruising and swelling to his nose, eyes and jaw.

Stab wounds and other injuries on the arms were consistent with Mr. Ward trying to defend himself from attack.

Some of Mr. Ward’s clothes – a Manchester United shirt, black hooded top and trainers – were discovered in a field.

Further bloodied clothing was found in McDonald’s home some of which were in a washing machine and forensic evidence taken was consistent with the bathroom being cleaned of blood, and a mop, bucket and Brillo pad were found in the bath.

Items seized by police and sent for forensic examination included a machete, pickaxe, hatchet, wooden shaft, barbell and a kitchen knife.

Cox and McDonald were arrested in connection with the murder.

McDonald denied murdering Mr. Ward and also denied alternative charges of manslaughter, gross negligence manslaughter and assisting an offender.

Her partner Cox initially also denied murder, but changed his plea.

In February of this year, a jury took two hours of deliberation to find McDonald guilty of manslaughter. She was cleared of the other charges.

McDonald and Cox were sentenced on Wednesday at Dungannon Crown Court.

In sentencing the pair, Mr. Justice Fowler began by commending the victim’s widow Ellie Ward for “the composed and compelling way you gave evidence.

“No-one could be anything but moved. What you have had to cope with would break many people. I can only imagine how difficult this was and still is. It has impacted every aspect of your life, your children’s and wider family.

“No sentence I can impose will replace the void of much-loved husband, father, son and brother. I can only hope the concluding of these proceedings brings some level of closure.”

‘Gratuitous violence’

Judge Fowler said yesterday that the “gratuitous violence and degrading of the victim, being stripped, dragged and left in an alleyway before his death”, meant sentencing began at a higher starting point.

“I am satisfied he engaged in a brutal attack using a number of weapons. I am satisfied the viciousness and persistence of the attack meant his intention was to kill the victim. I am not satisfied he acted in self-defence nor was he provoked to any great degree … The only mitigator was the guilty plea, which came late and after a trial date had been fixed.

Cox was ordered to serve 20 years imprisonment.

Mr. Justice Fowler found Cox presents as dangerous and is a significant risk to the public, which may impact on his eventual release date.

McDonald was ordered to serve 10 years in prison split evenly between custody and on licence, meaning her release is imminent having served the majority of this on remand.

‘Supreme indifference’

“She well knew Mr. Ward was beaten with weapons and stabbed and left critically injured. She and Cox removed him from the house. She knew, in my view, observed the vicious assault on him and was aware of his injuries. It is to her shame she did nothing to assist him. She showed a callous and supreme indifference to this dying man’s plight. Her contention that she believed he would get up and walk home to get help was disingenuous … I am satisfied she was involved in a clean-up to hide evidence.”

As the pair begin their sentences over the death of Mr. Ward questions now turn to whether this horrific murder could have been prevented, by refusing one of them bail following a breach while already charged with serious, high violence offences.

Throughout the lengthy proceedings from arrest until sentencing, what occurred just days beforehand when Cox appeared before court for breaching bail in another serious assault charge, was largely unknown.

Police sought to have him remanded in custody and pointing to his violent conducted warned, “It’s only a matter of time before he kills someone”.

Within days he did just that.

Cox was known to police as a violent offender and was already on strict bail for unrelated charges including unlawful and malicious wounding from an incident in September, 2018.

On 6 February 2019 police arrested him for breaching bail, bringing him before Enniskillen Magistrates Court.

A police officer highlighted Cox’s propensity for highly violent offending, alluding to the matter for which he was on bail.

She told the court: “Police do not feel he can be managed in the community. The level of violence is increasing.”

However a defence lawyer insisted Cox suffered from mental health and addiction issues and remanding him in custody would not be conducive to him accessing assistance.

The judge decided to release Cox and reminded him of the bail terms which included a strict curfew.

A further condition was added requiring him to attend with his GP within 48 hours to be referred for mental health support.

In an impassioned plea, the police officer repeated her concerns, but failed to dissuade the judge.


Her final comment: “It’s only a matter of time before he kills someone”, was tragically prophetic when, just three days later, Cox murdered Mr Ward.

It’s unclear whether Cox did engage with his GP as ordered by the court but he certainly breached his curfew, as evidenced by CCTV of him dragging Mr Ward to the alleyway in the early hours, indicating his indifference to his conditions of release.

When asked to comment, a PSNI spokesperson said: “On 6 February 2019 Niall Cox did appear in Enniskillen Magistrates Court for a bail application in connection with a previous significant offence. Police were in attendance at the court and bail was strenuously opposed along a number of themes. Bail was granted by the court, and this is a matter for the court and the court alone.”