• Accused was heavily under the influence and injured in brawl
• Third attempt to prosecute killer after previous judges had links to witness or victim
Ryan Cameron, 26, had sustained a fractured skull and jaw and was bleeding heavily following trouble at a pub shortly before he struck David McCardle on the flank with the barrel.
Cameron and a co-accused Ross Tait, 22, were originally charged with murdering Mr McCardle at a passageway off North High Street, Musselburgh, in East Lothian, on August 12 last year.
But the Crown accepted Cameron’s plea to the lesser charge of culpable homicide and his friend Tait was acquitted of the murder.
Tait pled guilty to assaulting another man, Derek Robertson, to his severe injury by striking him with a wooden pole.
A first trial involving the pair had to be halted earlier this year when the judge, Lady Dorrian, realised that she knew one of the witnesses.
A second attempt to run the murder case came to a halt after the new presiding judge discovered through a weekend chat with his wife that she was a distant relative through marriage of the victim.
Sean Murphy QC decided it would be inappropriate to continue with the trial with him as judge after the jury heard five days of evidence.
The third murder trial, which ended with pleas to reduced charges, began last week, at the High Court in Edinburgh. Cameron and Tait had both denied the murder.
The court heard that the accused, both from Musselburgh, were “significantly under the influence of alcohol” when they turned up at the Clubhouse Bar in the town’s North High Street.
Advocate depute Iain McSporran said: “They were refused service on account of the fact that Tait had previously been barred from the premises and after some minor exchange of words they left.”
But they went down a passageway at the side of the pub and went back into the bar through fire exit doors.
The prosecutor said they quickly appeared to have become involved in a confrontation with Steven Lindsay whom he described as “an unlicensed doorman”.
“Lindsay denies, but the evidence suggests and the Crown accepts, that he had by this time armed himself with a hammer with which he assaulted Cameron to his severe injury, including a fractured jaw but most importantly a fractured skull with an associated heavily bleeding wound,” he said.
He added: “A violent struggle ensued, during which Lindsay sustained injury and was disarmed of the hammer by Tait,” he added. Cameron and Tait fled back into the passageway.
Mr McSporran said: “Just how and why David McCardle came to be in the passageway is unknown.”
He had remained seated in the pub during the initial violence but had then gone out to the alley where he was joined by Mr Robertson. Mr McCardle had taken a broom with him.
Mr Robertson picked up the empty keg holding it in front of his chest as protection against any potential use of the hammer. He threw it at Cameron.
The prosecutor said there was “clearly a fast moving and confusing scene”.
The advocate depute said it seemed clear that Mr McCardle and Cameron got into a fight and the older man suffered facial injuries consistent with being punched.
But following his death pathologists discovered that he had received a single fatal blow to his right side which resulted in catastrophic damage with cuts to his liver with extensive bleeding and fractured ribs.
The prosecutor said: “It is understood that Cameron’s position is that during a fight with the deceased, at a point after both had gone to ground, he seized the beer keg by both ends and thrust it into and along the side of the deceased.”
Mr McSporran said the victim, who lived with his girlfriend Paula Cassidy who was at the pub that night, was a popular man who was well known and liked in the town.
“Those who knew him express surprise that he should have become involved in a situation in which the presentation of weapons was almost bound to result in violence and indicate that this was out of character,” he added.
Cameron’s counsel Robert Anthony QC said he did not go into the pub to cause trouble that night.
He said that when Cameron left the bar after the hammer attack he was “dazed, concussed and understandably confused”.
The judge, Lord Stewart, deferred sentence on Cameron and Tait until next month for the preparation of background reports. Cameron was remanded in custody.