A FORMER boxing champion is among three men jailed for their parts in a terrifying attack on two brothers during an escalating feud between rival families in the traveller community.
One of the victims of the savage attack could have died after his neck was slashed, missing his carotid artery by just a couple of millimetres, a judge at Warwick Crown Court was told.
John Kiely, amateur boxer Gerry McDonagh and Michael Mongan were charged with attempted murder, which they denied, but pleaded guilty to an alternative offence of wounding with intent.
Kiely, 40, of Darlingscote Road, Shipston-on-Stour; McDonagh, 26, of Burnhill Close, Southwark, London; and Mongan, 22, of Cricketfield Road, West Drayton, were all jailed for ten-and-a-half years.
Prosecutor Stephen Spence said the terrifying violence near the police training centre in Ryton-on-Dunsmore was the culmination of a long-running feud within the traveller community.
On one side was the Doherty family, known as the Black Dohertys, while the opposing group, the Brent Parkers, included the defendants.
“This took things to a new level because it involved not only extreme levels of violence involving machetes and pick-axe handles, but they had no regard for the lives of their intended victims, and it occurred on a public highway.”
The attack on the outskirts of Ryton in October 2018 was a meticulously planned revenge for a previous incident at a travellers’ site in Leicestershire.
Members of the Brent Parkers faction travelled to Ryton in the early hours of October 16, mainly in stolen cars with cloned number plates, while Kiely was driving a Jeep with steel reinforcement behind the bumper, turning it into a battering ram.
The Jeep was seen parked near the Coventry City training ground by 6.30am, waiting to spring the ambush on members of the Doherty family who lived at a travellers’ site in Oxford Road.
As four members of the Doherty family set off for work in a Ford Ranger towing a flat-bed trailer, they were rammed by the Jeep with such force that the Jeep’s air bags inflated and the Ranger’s tow bar ball ended up embedded in the Jeep.
The Dohertys sped away towards Coventry, pursued by three Audis and a Ford Focus in which the attackers were travelling.
At an island they went all the way round and tried to head back to the travellers’ site, but their way was blocked by the damaged trailer and Jeep.
A large number of men, armed with machetes, pick-axe handles and other weapons, piled out of the pursuing cars, and the Doherty also got out of their vehicle and armed themselves.
They were subjected to a mass attack, seen by people on their way to work and on the school run, during which the driver of one of the Audis tried to run one of them down.
One police officer who turned up said he ‘could not tell who was a victim and who was an offender,’ and at one point feared for his safety as his car was surrounded by men with machetes.
He then saw a man on his knees with another man raising a weapon above his head and striking him to the neck, so used his car as a weapon and drove at the attacker to fend him off.
After the attackers fled from the scene, a member of the Doherty family was left with a wound to the back of his head and had had ammonia squirted into his face.
Even more seriously, another man’s throat had been cut so deeply that his trachea was visible – and a paramedic said that if the wound had been ‘a couple of millimetres either side or deeper, it would have been a fatal injury,’ said Mr Spence.
Of the aggressors, McDonagh was arrested trying to hide in the water at the nearby Jubilee Fishing Pools, and Mongan was found in a field where, barefoot, he claimed he was on a penance for his father who was dying of cancer.
Kiely’s DNA was found on the airbag in the Jeep, but by then he had left the country to go to Canada, and was not arrested until October when, following his return, he was about to board a ferry at Dover, since when he had been in custody.
Craig Rush, for McDonagh, said he had twice been an ABA national boxing champion, and was said to have great potential.
“That is how he came to be recruited to form part of the group who set out to perform an act of summary justice. It only became apparent late in the day this was to be an armed attack.
“There is nothing to say he was linked to the earlier planning of the attack. It’s significant he was one of the two left behind at the scene. He’s a classic foot soldier.”
Mr Rush conceded: “This was in front of ordinary members of the public going about their daily business. It unfolded before people probably taking their children to school. This must have been very frightening for them.”
Sarah Forshaw QC, for Kiely, said he had been persuaded to let the group meet at his home and to take some of them to ‘the Black Dohertys site,’ which he did, knowing ‘there was going to be serious trouble.’
“His vehicle was stronger and he caused the accident at the outset. He concedes that, but what it does mean is that the extreme violence towards (the man whose throat was cut) is something that Mr Kiely was not present at.”
She pointed out that three people said that injury had been inflicted by another man – but the prosecution had decided to offer no evidence against him after the other three had entered guilty pleas.”
Miss Forshaw added that Kiely ‘no longer wishes to have anything to do with the feud,’ and his family have moved after, she alleged, the Doherty family had been phoning prisons offering cash rewards to anyone who would attack him inside.
Louise Sweet QC, for Mongan, said: “We accept this was an extremely unpleasant incident for any member of the public who passed by, let alone the officers who had to involve themselves.”
But she argued: “This incident is not without background. The relevance of the background is that the complainant is not without moral responsibility for this incident.
“Mr Mongan had no part to play in the lead-up to these events. His was a subordinate role.”
Jailing the three men, Judge Andrew Lockhart QC told them: “There was meticulous pre-planning by those with whom you executed this attack.
“As you were on your way to this mass planned fight, each of you was fully engaged. Each of you is to a large extent entirely responsible for the actions of others.
“You had no regard to the lives of the intended victims, and the whole incident took place on busy pubic roads during the early-morning rush hour, and a number of police officers were also involved and risked their own lives.
“It was a truly frightening event. It almost beggars belief that it would take place on a road in Warwickshire close to the police academy. This scene was utterly terrifying.
“(A member of the Doherty family) received a very serious cut to his neck. That he survived is a matter of huge good fortune.”